“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life”. –Dame Cicely Saunders, Founder of the Hospice Movement.

While the number of Americans receiving hospice care grows each year, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) estimates that for every patient who receives hospice, there is at least one more that could have benefitted from the comprehensive services for the patient and family, but did not receive this specialized care. Hospice workers hear over and over from those they serve, “I wished we’d signed up sooner”.   Studies show that patients under Hospice care actually live, on average, 27 days longer than patients with similar ailments who are not under Hospice care.

Hospice is a philosophy of care, not a place. At the center of hospice care, is the belief that we all have the right to die with comfort and dignity, and that our loved ones will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so. Hospice services are available to patients facing a life limiting illness. Services are fully covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed care organizations.

Hospice involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to the wishes of the patient and family. Hospice care is delivered where the patient is. Most often, that is the patient’s home, but may also be provided in facilities.

The hospice benefit is being underutilized. There is an understandable reluctance to contemplate end of life. For some, they view it as giving up hope. Perhaps, there is no longer hope for the condition, but the patient might still hope to accomplish a meaningful event or activity. The team works with the patient and family to achieve these goals. When facing end of life, we encourage you to look at the “H” word not just as hospice, but also for the help that can be provided to the patient and their family through comfort, care, and choice.

Editor’s Note: This article written by Jody Tomberlin, MSW at Interim Healthcare Hospice. Jody, and the Interim Healthcare Hospice team, can be reached at (719) 314- 4868