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Sunday, August 10, 2008

In case you are considering hospice care

Did you know that I once worked for a multi-disciplinary rural hospice? I think it was the only one in the nation at the time (early 90's). I learned about the new duties while I was at an MCMLA (medical librarian) meeting in Colorado Springs, during a break when I called back to the office to find out if I had any messages - what a way to learn about a complete job change! Anyway, since those days, and because of some personal experience with family members and close friends who have used hospice, I have always told folks to consider it when the care involved when living with a life-threatening illness gets to be too much. Personally, I plan to outlive hospice - I don't want to sign up for hospice 3 days before I die, in other words. The service and care that hospice professionals offer frees up the family members to REALLY spend time with the person who is ill, and to pay attention to the important things that need to be done and said those during those special last months. Last thing I want is my loved ones worrying about stuff that a hospice professional can take care of, instead of us talking together.
Information about hospice can be found here: There are in-patient hospice centers around, in case you need one - check with your doctor. The best one in the world, in my opinion, and one that I had the honor of visiting, is the San Diego Hospice: And, speaking about your doctor - you might want to check early as to their personal view of hospice, since they are the ones that can sign you into one. If you have a doctor that doesn't believe in the usefulness of hospice, or might actually have something against hospice (viewing it as 'giving up', for example), you might want to change doctors, or be very clear on your wishes from the start. The saddest stories I hear are the ones about people experiencing terminal illness, and they get placed in hospice the day before or two weeks before they die. I am glad that they went at all, but all of the wonderful support that hospice offers was never offered to them - what a shame.
I have a few more end-of-life topics that I will be posting on. No, this isn't any hint on my personal health information - I am doing fine. I just know that some things are too important not to talk about, even on a blog.

1 comment:

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

I appreciate your perspective and advice. But your comments make it sound like hospice is just another practical decision in life.

Hospice is a highly-charged emotional word and concept. Many healthy people - and I venture most people who are newly diagnosed with life-threatening illness - do not want to think about hospice, let alone discuss it.

I am a vocal advocate for hospice care. In order for patients and their families to optimize use of this healing service, we need to acknowledge and address the understandable emotional obstacles to considering or accepting hospice care. The NPR blog by Leroy Sievers has been a prime example of struggle.

I wrote a column about hospice for professionals in oncology that can be accessed at:

With hope, Wendy

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