Friday, October 17, 2003

Communication important in planning end of life by Samira K. Beckwith

Recently someone said to me, "If I ever know of anyone in the final stages of life, I'll tell them I about Hope Hospice." My response was, "Is 'if really the right word?"

Over the past two decades at Hope Hospice, we've seen that people often don't know a great deal about accessing end-of- life care, and, as you might expect, they don't want to even think about it. A study conducted for the National Hospice Foundation found that Americans are more likely to talk to their children about drugs and sex than to talk to their elderly parents about life-limiting illness.

Although Americans may expect quality care in the final stages of life, we are too uncomfortable about the subject to even discuss it with our closest family members. Lack of communication leaves people unprepared for the .physical and emotional strains caused by life-limiting illness, but there are choices in end-of-life care, and through frank, open conununication, families can plan to spend their final time together in peace and comfort.

November is National Hospice Month, and becoming familiar with care and bereavement counseling at IIope Hospice at this time will benefit everyone, patients and families, when facing end-of-life issues. In Southwest Florida, Hope Hospice's services are provided to about 700 people a day by Hope Hospice ("Hope," as we know it), a not-for-profit health care agency serving people of all ages. Services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and many insurances. Hope Hospice provides services regardless of a patient's ability to pay. We rely on grants and conununity support to fund services for patients with little or no insurance.

So what does Hope Hospice's care have to offer that can really help? How does Hope make a difference? Hope Hospice care provides patients and their families with the things they truly want and need. It starts with embracing the individual as a person, not the "patient" that the system may try to make them in order to fit them into protocols and standard operating procedures.

Hope Hospice care includes emotional and spiritual support for the person and the family, pain control tailored to the person's wishes and the choice for the person to spend their time wherever they call home. In fact, Hope Hospice is more than a place. It is a concept of care that treats the person, not the disease, and emphasizes the quality of life, not the duration.

The Hope Hospice team of caregivers works with patients and their families to develop individualized plans of care that are designed to ease the patient's physical and emotional pain. Hope Hospice caregivers provide emotional support to the patient and their family during the most difficult time of their lives so that they can "put their lives in order" and make the last stage in life even more meaningful.

Hope Hospice providers are dedicated to the notion that the end of life is one of life's stages and that it should be lived fully and peacefully with the support of friends and family.

 Hope Hospice provides all of the things that our patients need most: freedom from pain, emotional and spiritual support and the ability to control the direction of their own care.

Only by embracing the importance of discussing the final stage of life decisions can we improve care for the dying in America. Families must be encouraged to freely discuss the type of care they would like to receive during a life-limiting illness because choices do exist.

As the concept of Hope Hospice proves, people do not need to live out their lives in pain or in fear. Only by discussing and learning about our choices can we truly receive the type of care we want and deserve.