Eleanor Clift Writes About Hospice

Orchids were a favorite of Mother's.

Journalist Eleanor Clift has written a superb article in the August 2011 publication Health Affairs about the hospice experience of her husband, journalist Tony Brazaitis, in the months before he died of cancer. It’s freely available and filled with astute observations and information — a good read for anyone, but especially for families who may have to consider hospice in the near future.

In Hospice and the ‘End Game,‘ Clift describes what she calls “the different philosophy of care” of hospice programs and how they focus on quality at the end of life. She writes:

They say hospice is the best medical care that no one wants because it signals the end of life, and American culture is all about fighting until your last breath. But hospice is far more than a waiting room for death; it’s a different philosophy of care for both the patient and the family.

In our family that different philosophy ensured that we spent four high quality months with my husband’s 90-year-old mother at the end of her life.

But getting Mother on hospice was a huge challenge.

When we approached Mother’s physician about it, the doctor said that she could not recommend enrollment at that point, and so we went through several agonizing weeks of illnesses, hospital visits, doctor visits, dizzy spells, disorientation, and the like. Only when we chatted with our minister about our concern (and Mother’s), did we learn how to document everything that was happening as well as Mother’s aversion to going back to the  hospital. With that data and the help of concerned staff at the assisted living community, we convinced the doctor that it was the right time.

And it was. Because of hospice the cycle of “doing things” that were not helping Mother turned into a time of activity and engagement. We read books aloud, looked at pictures, went to a restaurant or two, listened to music, shared many meals at our home and hers, and even took a few walks together. Mother was pain-free.

Clift concludes, “…as people enter this last stage of life, they deserve the knowledge to make the choices that are right for them.” Read the article.

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