President and CEO National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Every day we are confronted with a countless number of choices. All too frequently, many challenging yet important decisions are set-aside for the future. Unfortunately, one of the most significant decisions of one’s life is too often put off, or made for us by others, leaving us little or no opportunity to make our own choice based on our personal priorities and wishes.
Hospice and palliative care professionals see this play out on a daily basis – families in the corridor of a hospital or Emergency Room trying to figure out what their loved one would have wanted at the end of their life. The outcome is rarely what the individual at the center of care would have chosen.
Facing Your Mortality
It’s safe to say that most people would probably choose not to face their own mortality. I get it; I don’t choose to face mine. Yet the choice of having a serious or life-limiting illness is seldom in our power. While hard to face, the best time to learn about palliative care and hospice is long before you need it.
Far too many people receive hospice care for only a handful of days at the end of life. When individuals forgo hospice care, they may suffer needlessly while struggling with pain from symptoms of a serious illness that could be alleviated by palliative care services. Delaying or not choosing to access palliative care or hospice care can deprive you and your family from the full clinical, emotional and spiritual benefits these services offer.
Having the Talk
Patients say they are waiting for their doctors to recommend hospice; physicians say they are waiting for patients to ask whether hospice care would be a good option. Perhaps it seems less “real” to not think about it. However, the choice of how we wish to live out our lives should only be ours.
As Americans, we pride ourselves on being well-informed consumers. In planning a vacation or buying a new car, we tend to explore all options. Why don’t we put the same effort into planning for our end-of-life care needs?
Moving Toward Understanding
If you or a loved one are facing a serious or life-limiting illness and need help in understanding your options, think of your local hospice or palliative care provider as an important resource for information. Don’t wait until you’re facing a medical crisis to learn about your options for hospice and palliative care.
Most of us would prefer the end of our lives to be a peaceful transition. It’s possible. We just need to make that choice when the time comes.
NHPCO can help you find a provider and offers free information at our website CaringInfo.org.
Edo Banach, President & CEO National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, [email protected]