Dawn Smith: Hi! I am Dawn Smith with Kindred at Home. I am here to discuss hospice care and to provide some perspective on the end of life decisions that most people must someday make.
There is a growing recognition today that when providing medical care through a terminal illness or advanced age-related decline, its wise to be more questioning, more thoughtful and more mindful of comfort and the patients own wishes.
Treatments may extend life, but at what risk to the patients comfort and sense of control? Surveys have shown the vast majority of people prefer to live their final months at home in familiar surroundings. The quality of life during that final phase is very precious, but hope is also precious. People want to know exactly what will be experienced with each medical intervention and how that experience compares to other options.
If an extreme measure can extend life, what exactly will that experience be? Its helpful for families to ask detailed questions so that everyone, especially the patient, is aware of the typical experiences associated with each procedure, its impact on physical comfort, and how it will affect the ability to communicate.
Hospice is the highest level and most comprehensive home-based model of care that Medicare provides. A team of medical professionals, counselors and trained volunteers focuses on the comfort of the whole person; physical, emotional and spiritual, and provides practical and emotional support to the entire family.
There are significant educational efforts underway by Kindred at Home and all hospice agencies to help people understand the true nature and value of hospice care.
Hospice means choosing to have the best quality of life during the time remaining. Hospice does not mean giving up. It can be seen as a reprieve from the discomforts of curative treatments. There are many cases of patients living far longer than expected once they are more comfortable after pain and symptoms have become better managed.
And the patient always has the right to leave hospice and restart curative treatments at any time.
Many of us agree that as with most things in life, quality is far more important than quantity. When you are faced with the difficult, emotional and tense choices at the end of life, remember that hospice has always been about living, not about dying.