Hospice care: life or "death panels"?



























Our hospice care
My wife received hospice care for years during the end stages of Alzheimer’s Disease that began a dozen years earlier. Hospice care maximizes comfort and independence, and if you completed advanced directives, then you decide what is done if you have cooperating physicians and facilities.

Palliative and hospice
Palliative care's purpose is reduce pain, make the patient as comfortable as possible, care for basic needs, and provide holistic care. Palliative care is chosen when curing or remission is no longer possible. Palliative care is usually in hospitals or medical facilities, providing medications to ease pain and comfort care for patients.

Hospice care is palliative care, but goes to where the patient is. Hospice provides equipment so the patient can remain at home if practical. Hospice care for my wife provided a case manager who is a nurse plus a social worker both with specialized training to monitor patients’ physical care and work with the family, keep the family informed, and prepare family members to work through grief in a therapeutic and healing way. Hospice provides groups to aid grief work. This service is provided for 13 months after the death, since first events after the death often trigger renewed loneliness and grief. Most hospices have chaplains to work with patients and families. Hospice care is paid for by Medicare and insurance; some hospices provide free care.

The average length of hospice care in our country is just over 2 months.

Many hospices also have outreach into their communities to provide information about hospice and palliative care and end of life choices and planning. On this site I have that information; I have long advocated that every one discuss these issues rationally. We never know when the young may be unable to say what they want. If we think and plan and complete "advanced directives," then each of us decides about our own end of life care.

How to select a hospice for best care
Some things to consider when choosing among hospices; ask about:

  • Do they force religion on patients, or sensitively offer religion when requested
  • Their number of certified staff.
  • Their after hours staffing.
  • Their frequency of visits.
  • The extent of their volunteer services.
  • Their levels of care, home, in-patient and crisis care.
  • Their agency accreditation.
  • The extent of their bereavement care.
  • What special services do they have for children?
  • What makes them unique from other hospices?

Recommendations from others — friends, physicians, pastors, therapists

This we believe
On this site I tell how my wife and I discussed end of life choices early in our marriage, because of my visits with parishioners who were in terminal care. She and I both said we did not want to be kept alive. During her very long decline through Alzheimer’s Disease, she often told me she wanted to die; in my theological opinion she should have that choice. A patient can elect to refuse treatment and nourishment in "advanced directives." Fortunately for me there is a form I have completed to prevent my being kept alive in similar situations. Some doctors, hospitals and facilities may deny personal decisions, so we need someone to be our advocate who will demand that we get the care we want.

"Death panels"
were invented by Betsy McCaughey and trumpeted by others. See Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" recent interview of her on line for probing insight. Do my wife's and my experiences I've reported have any similarity to their death panels?

Our Right to choose
Some day our nation and culture will have true and deep religious freedom, that includes freedom from religion for those who so choose. Each of us then can make our own decisions about life and the end of life, and no one can force us to act against our own convictions. No one will wave signs, picket, and shout against our choosing to follow our own decisions about life. Each of us can preach and teach in calm ways but no one will be coerced by another’s religious and moral convictions. That is what the beginning of the Bill of Rights is about: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” which is the tyranny of one religion forcing others to do what they oppose.

Why not offer everyone who has a terminal illness palliative and hospice care that will make them as comfortable, pain free, and independent as possible without prolonging suffering unless they choose maximum care — and pay for it?

Comments or questions?



Copyright © 2009, 2013 John F. Yeaman