To Your Health-Nov. 11, 2004

Hospice not for when there’s nothing left to do

By: Dr. Terry Shlimbaum
   November is National Hospice Month and a time when Hospice organizations across the nation focus on educating the public about the range of choices available when coping with life-limiting illness.
   As part of a broader national campaign launched by National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Hunterdon Hospice’s goal is to remind people that hospice is not about how you die, but it’s about how you live.
   "Public education is the key to dispelling the many myths that surround Hospice care," said Amy Sutton, volunteer coordinator at Hunterdon Hospice. "Our goal is to make it easier for people to talk about end-of-life issues so they can plan ahead regarding how they wish to live their life before they ever need our services. That is why we have developed a Speakers Bureau, to create a dialogue with individuals and groups in the community about Hospice care philosophy and the various services that are available to individuals, their family and/or caregivers."
   "Most people think hospice is what you do when there’s nothing left to do," added J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the national organization. "That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hospice provides a wide range of services to the family and patient that maximize quality of life and help people live as fully as possible, on their terms."
   Hospice uses an interdisciplinary team of health-care professionals and trained volunteers to provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families, coping with life-limiting illness.
   NHPCO reports the nation’s 3,300 hospice providers served one million patients last year. Hospices helped these people live with dignity, comfort and compassion.
   Hospice is a covered benefit under Medicare, Medicaid in most states and most private insurance plans and HMOs.
   Hunterdon Hospice is committed to informing the community and local health care professionals about the benefits of hospice and palliative care.
   "National Hospice Month gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of the options of care available," said Anne Boyle, director of Hospice. "Far too many people wait until they are facing a health crisis to learn about care options. The best time to learn about end-of-life care is before it becomes a serious issue."
   The Hunterdon Hospice Speakers Bureau is offered free of charge and will help participants understand what hospice is, the services provided, when hospice or palliative care is appropriate and other vital health care issues all consumers should be familiar with. The importance of communicating your wishes to family and loved ones — early and often — will be emphasized and ways to help initiate these difficult discussions will be provided.
   To request someone from the Hunterdon Hospice Speakers Bureau come out to speak to your organization or for additional information about local resources, call Ms. Sutton at (908) 788-2573.