People who haven’t had a personal experience with hospice care may mistakenly believe that choosing hospice means giving up on life. This perception also is shared by some members of the medical community, which can make it difficult for patients and families to talk about hospice and prepare for the dying process.
Blount Memorial Hospice physician Dr. Teresa Catron explains. “As physicians we are trained to cure, so when faced with a terminal process resistant to cure, we feel as though we have failed. But when ‘cure’ is not an option, there is still so much we can do. With hospice, our focus shifts from curative to palliative. We can use our medical knowledge to prevent and alleviate suffering. We can use our abilities as nurses to provide care, as chaplains to provide spiritual guidance and use social services to offer emotional strength.”
Catron says that changing the perception of hospice begins with acknowledging that death is a natural part of life. “For some physicians, referring a patient to hospice can seem somewhat like abandonment or present an emotional loss,” she adds. “Throughout our lives, medical practice supports us and carries us forward with the hope for good health and longevity. But we are not immortal. And we are very good at ignoring that basic fact. We all think that our loved ones will live forever, and we are surprised when that isn’t the case. Death is a part of life. With early questioning, early education, good preparation and good support, the fear and anxiety surrounding the dying process can be relieved and acceptance can come earlier.”
To receive the full benefit of hospice (including the maximum financial savings afforded by the Medicare hospice benefit), patients or family members are encouraged to talk to their doctor (or loved one’s doctor) about hospice as early as possible in the terminal disease process.
Adds Catron, “Requesting hospice services at a time when medical care can no longer offer a cure is not giving up, it is giving more. By ensuring that we are providing that best level of care possible at end of life is an act of love. To me, ignoring the benefit of hospice is the definition of giving up.”
If you believe that you or a family member would benefit from hospice, call Blount Memorial Hospice at 865-977-5702.