Carmel, CA Hospice : Help For Those In Their Final Days Remain At Home : View From A Private Duty Caregiverby Richard Kuehn on 07/09/12
There was a great story on the front page of the Monterey Herald today about hospice, and how misunderstood the program is. Some people have a perception of hospice of being a depressing vigil around a dying person. Although it can be that, it can also be a program to help a person enjoy their last days in this world, make their peace with friends and family, and be on their way. Hospice services, such as those provided by CHOMP (Hospice of the Central Coast), VNA (Central Coast Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice) and Heartland Hospice Services provide medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support to those with terminal diseases. It's covered by Medicare, Medi-Cal and most private health insurance plans after a physician has certified it's unlikely a patient will live more than six months. I took care of my grandmother for five years and in the end we did have to put her on hospice. This was a hard decision and came after the realization that at the age of 97, not only was there not much point in giving her more than a dozen pills each day, but that she had a full life and was OK with leaving us. Hospice personnel come in and check on the patient regularly to make sure they are comfortable and can be called with emergencies. But they also help some people that had been in great health and have suddenly come down with a terminal disease. "We come in and help people go golfing or go snowbird down to Florida, or go out to dinner several nights a week. We help them get to the casinos on weekends. This is not getting ready to die. This is living. Living now, living tomorrow, making the best possible life with what you have," Robin Stawasz, family services director at Southern Tier Hospice and Palliative Care, told a reporter. That's great to hear, and may be eye opening to some people. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 1.58 million patients received care from more than 5,000 programs nationwide in 2010, more than double the number of patients they served a decade ago. More than 40% of the people who died last year in the United States were under the care of hospice. I think that's indicative of people's wanting to remain in their own homes and be as independent as possible, even if they are dying. No one wants to spend their final days in a hospital hooked up to a life support machine.