Many unaware of Hospice's services

November 30, 2003

Dear Editor:

"Why didn't we call Hospice earlier?" Most hospice professionals will tell you this is one of the most frequently heard comments from families they serve.

Predicting the amount of time left for a patient with a life-limiting illness is difficult in the best situations. No two people respond exactly the same way to medical treatments or the illness itself. Physicians cannot be expected to predict a patient's exact life expectancy.

However, as many of the nation's 3,200 hospice organizations will tell you, far too many Americans are unaware of the option of hospice when they are facing a serious illness. Including patients and families in discussions about the full scope of their illness and the range of available options is critical if people are to make informed decisions about their health care.


When patients and families choose hospice, they receive care unlike any other. Hospice goes to the patient, treats pain and symptoms with aggressive medical care, and eases the emotional and spiritual suffering of patients, families, and loved ones. A team of dedicated and caring medical experts, professionals, and members of the community make it possible - doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, trained volunteers and bereavement counselors.

Hospice care is a covered expense under Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed care organizations. While most care is provided in the home, hospice is also available in local nursing homes and extended care facilities.

Even so, challenges remain. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization estimates that for every patient, who is currently receiving hospice care, there are two more who could benefit.

Nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe that patients with a life-limiting diagnosis would benefit from a consultation with end-of-life specialists to complete the care of their own physicians, citing more control over end-of-life decisions, ignoring the patients quality of life, and diminishing the financial impact of terminal illness as the expected benefit.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Heritage Hospice, Inc. and of National Hospice Month. It is an excellent time to learn about choices available for those facing a life-limiting illness so that no one will have to ask, "Why didn't we call Hospice sooner?"

Janelle Lane

Executive Director

Heritage Hospice, Inc.

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