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National Hospice Palliative Care Month

| Muncie—November is National Hospice/Palliative Care Month. This year’s theme, Preserving a legacy…treasuring memories, signifies that every person is a unique individual with a lifetime of experiences, relationships and gifts to share.

Q: What is hospice care?
A: Considered the model for quality compassionate care for people facing a life limiting illness, hospice provides expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well.

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing. In most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home but may also be provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients with any life limiting illness (prognosis six months or less if the disease runs its normal course) and of any age, gender, religion, or race.

Q: How long do most patients receive care?
A: The total number of days that a hospice patient receives care is referred to as the length of service (or length of stay). The length of service may be influenced by a number of factors including disease course, timing of referral and access to care.

The median length of service in 2009 was 21.1 days. This means that half of hospice patients received care for less than three weeks and half received care for more than three weeks. The average length of service in 2009 was 69.5.

Q: Where do most patients receive care?
A: The majority of patient care is provided in the place the patient calls “home.”
In addition to private residences, this includes nursing homes and residential facilities. In 2009, 68.6% of patients received care at home. The number of patients receiving care in an inpatient facility was 21.2%.

Q: What is the impact of hospice care on survival?
A: Hospice care may actually prolong the lives of some terminally ill patients. In a recent study, the mean survival was 29 days longer for hospice patients than for non-hospice patients. This means that patients who chose hospice care lived an average of one month longer than similar patients who did not choose hospice care. This data was obtained by researchers who studied the survival of 4,493 terminally ill patients with diagnoses including cancer of the breast, colon, lung, pancreas or prostate.

Longer lengths of survival were found in four of the six disease categories studied. The largest difference in survival between the hospice and non-hospice cohorts was observed in congestive heart failure patients where the mean survival period jumped from 321 days to 402 days. The mean survival period also was significantly longer for the hospice patients with lung cancer (39 days) and pancreatic cancer (21 days), while marginally significant for colon cancer patients (33 days).

Q: What is the advantage of hospice care?
A: The advantages of hospice services include comprehensive interdisciplinary care from a team of professionals and volunteers. This care involves physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, dietitians, pharmacists and trained hospice volunteers to meet the needs of the patient and their caregivers. Grievement services are provided for a minimum of one year following the death of a loved one.

Care is available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays. Patients and their caregivers always have access to hospice professionals whenever there is a need.

Choosing hospice usually means a reduction in out-of-pocket expenses for medications, durable medical equipment, and medical supplies.

When a patient is truly ready for comfort care, choosing hospice care means avoiding unwanted hospitalizations and medical treatments and procedures. The goal of the hospice team is to abide by the patients and caregivers wishes while helping them achieve their goals for care.

Ruth Ann Tollee is the manager of Clarian Ball Hospice. For more information contact Clarian Ball Hospice at 765.747.4273.

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