In the past, death occurred at home after a traumatic event or short illness. Care for the dying person was almost always provided by friends and family members only in the home. End of life experiences were usually painful and no advance care planning was in place or even understood. As medical technologies developed to prolong life all that went along with living in these life-threatening situations became more challenging.
Today, death has become even more complicated. Many individuals are diagnosed earlier and suffer from progressive, chronic, or critical illnesses that outlive the curative process. Meaning, the person is living beyond all the current measures that can be taken to help cure them. When this happens, or when the patient is ready comfort care measures are available.
So why is Hospice more important today than yesterday? Patients can now choose or change their focus from curative care to comfort care and elect hospice services supported by the health care community with the confidence that new treatments, medication and technologies are now available to provide greater comfort, assist with symptoms and pain management. This progress helps to ease the burden of terminal illness that was experienced in the past.
We know better understand the importance of advanced care planning and how it eases the burden on the patient, family and health care system when crisis or end of life is happening. We know better understand that we as the patient or family have a choice between curative care and comfort care. We also now better understand that we have a Choice in that care and can request and have input in the care we are willing to accept as part of our daily living. The patient and family fully participate in the preparation of and end of life care services.
Due to so many options for our elder community, death no longer occurs primarily at home. Approximately 25% of all U.S. deaths occurs in the long-term care setting and this number is expected to grow. Up to 20% of all deaths in the U.S. occur in the Hospital ICU or shortly after an ICU stay. That is why it is so important to know your own power in your end of life decisions. If you want to die at home, you know need to make sure you communicate that desire with your family, friends and medical community.
Utilizing hospice care towards end of life benefits all involved not just the patient. The hospice team approach includes services that can assist the family and caregivers as well. Many people do not understand that curative care when it is no longer working can expedites death and that comfort care can extend a person’s time. Not only that, if your terminal condition stabilizes, and you have all the tools and resources in place to be safe and pain controlled, you can graduate hospice. Graduating hospice means being discharged from the services until you need them again, so Hospice is not always about death. Hospice makes life moments happen until they don’t.