Hospice Month honors compassion for patients
Over the years, the public perception of hospice care has expanded from the notion of the last stop of life from a very tough medical journey to the larger view of what it offers: comprehensive support and extended care in a comforting, compassionate atmosphere for patients with life-limiting diseases.
November is National Hospice Month, a distinction that prompts us to reflect on the growth of hospice care and the excellent, diligent care provided by dedicated professionals every day.
Each year, more than 1 million patients in the United States are cared for by hospice. There are in excess of 100,000 professionals and 400,000 volunteers who contribute medical, spiritual and social support to patients, regardless of financial resources, while preserving dignity and quality of life in their darkest hours.
In addition to delivering complementary activities that uplift patients, such as massages, music therapy and aromatherapy, hospices excel at uniting families in times of duress and fulfilling last wishes like expediting marriage plans and arranging special trips. Hospices always answer their duty in addressing the desires of each family; it’s what we do best.
Through partnerships with medical providers, nonprofit agencies and volunteers, hospices continue to raise awareness and funds to supplement care and provide additional services not covered by insurance. I am very proud of all the people who contribute their time, talents and funds to support hospice care.
In August 2016, the New York State Department of Health amended a regulation to provide extended coverage for residents who exclusively receive Medicaid benefits, enabling eligible patients to live up to a year or more in hospice care based on their condition. This change demonstrated the commitment to protecting longer-term care needs, even as patients frequently arrive for a few days or weeks.
There is no day in which a local family is not dealing with the challenges and logistics of having a loved one needing assistance to remain independent. The need for hospice could strike at any age, thus one is never too young to formalize end-of-life planning. It is estimated that 27 percent of Americans have put into writing how they want to be cared for, while an equal amount have never considered documenting their wishes. Even with millions planning their care, there are too many patients who die alone or in pain.
Hospice professionals always welcome the opportunity to have the conversation with patients to assess their prognosis. They seek to admit them sooner to manage their care and establish a comfort level to maximize the valuable time they have left. For more information on hospice care, please visit nhpco.org. The editorials on this page represent the opinion of The Buffalo News editorial board. Members are Publisher and President Warren T. Colville; Editor Michael K. Connelly; Editorial Page Editor Kevin S. Walter; and editorial writers Dawn Marie Bracely and Greg Connors.