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Baby Boomers Opt for Comprehensive Care

Baby Boomers Opt for Comprehensive Care

Last year was a milestone for the number of individuals utilizing palliative and hospice services, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, based in Washington, DC. What has prompted an increase in the utilization of such services?
Hospice and palliative care is a relatively new concept in our country. In fact, most hospice organizations in the US are only 25-30 years old! Prior to its migration from Europe, hospice care was not a recognized medical standard of practice in the US. The word "hospice" developed from the Latin word "hospitium" means guesthouse or shelter for weary or sick travelers. Although the term hospice was derived from a word that means a place, it is the philosophy of care that has become known as the "gold standard" in end-of-life care. While some hospice organizations do have a facility where patients can go, if they choose to, most patients die at home, in a nursing care facility or assisted living. The first hospice in the United States was established in New Haven, Connecticut in 1974.
Dame Cicely Saunders, the noted English visionary in end-of-life care and founder of St. Christopher's Hospice, can be credited with leading the way for hospice care after her encounter with a young dying patient. It was this experience of being with a dying patient that Saunders realized the need to address the "total patient" - their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs that must be encompassed to effectively treat their condition while maintaining their dignity.
Choosing Comprehensive Care
Birthing and dying at home have traditionally been typical occurrences in US homes until the last century when technologies within the health care arena became sought after ideals for extending life. It is the quality of life that the newfound technologies make questionable - questions that must be answered on an individual basis.
Hospice care in the past has been considered for only those who were dying - for those that nothing else could be done. Patients and families perceived hospice care to be a service offered when doctors were "giving up" on their loved ones. Doctors perceived it as "throwing in the towel" when traditional medicine and treatments weren't providing a cure. In reality, hospice care has been misinterpreted by patients, families and professionals. It is a model of care that provides the patient with comprehensive medical treatment focused on symptom and pain management with emotional, spiritual, and social support for the patient and family as they achieve goals that are important to them specifically. It is a means of helping them to find meaning and purpose at a time in their lives when daily living is chaotic and the future is unknown. It is a security system that responds to the "total person" with expert medical care, compassion, and human understanding amidst their journey through the final stages of life.
Choosing to Live
More patients and families are realizing that hospice and palliative care is an opportunity - an opportunity for them to choose how they LIVE at the end of life, instead of giving up or enduring treatments that may be of no real value in curing the illness. Hospice care provides them with an opportunity to utilize a wide variety of services focused on accomplishing whatever goals the patient and family have identified. Hospice care is an opportunity for them to make each day count!
Health care has become challenging - for both the patient and provider. The single most important ingredient is education. A well-informed patient and family that takes time to learn about the illness, it's treatment options and long-term prognosis, the more likely they are to have a successful outcome of care. Often times navigating the medical jargon, treatments, and payment can be overwhelming for those in the midst of crisis, so the earlier one does their homework, the better prepared they will be.
We expect that the baby-boomers will be more likely to be in the driver's seat of the decision-making for their care. They are more likely to opt for a plan that allows them the freedom to work collaboratively with their primary care physician and a team of health care professionals who will address the "total patient." This in collaboration with receiving comprehensive medical care that is focused on symptom management, social support and living life the way they choose to LIVE their life.
Many will opt for hospice and palliative care that focuses on being comfortable at home.
The staff at Hospice of Washington County is available to consult with individuals in the privacy of their own home by call 301-791-6360.
Key Steps on How to:

1. Plan ahead- Planning ahead can help eliminate hasty decisions in the midst of crisis.
2. Appoint- Appoint a medical power of attorney, health care proxy, or durable power of attorney for health care (basically the same thing, just different terms).
3. Make your wishes known- Initiate important conversations that express your desires or goals for how you want to LIVE at the end of life with those closest to you and your primary care physician.
4. Write it down- Preparing an advance directive is not an absolute that your wishes will be conveyed if you are not able to speak for yourself, but it can help for others to know your wishes.
5. Share a copy- You need to notify your primary care physician of your decisions and give him or her a copy of your advance directive, in addition to the person that will represent you as your medical power of attorney.
6. Review your plan- Pick a time of year - on New Year's, driver's license renewal time, or some other date that will jog your memory to review your plan each year and update it should that be necessary.

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