When a person is approaching the end of life, we can find no easy answers, no solution that fits every person’s or family’s situation, even when they know a lot about the options available to them.
To illustrate this you will want to read For Hospice Pioneer, Still a Tough Call, by Paula Span at the New York Times New Old Age Blog. She describes the end-of-life period for Paul Brenner, age 73, who spend years organizing and leading hospice organizations around the country. Despite all of this experience, it was still challenging for Mr. Brenner and for his family to engage with hospice.
Over and over I hear from friends and acquaintances how a loved one uses hospice for the last several days or perhaps a week at the end of life, and I am sometimes puzzled about how difficult it seems to be to decide to use hospice. My observation is juxtaposed with my family’s experience — a bit more than three months when my mother-in-law participated in a hospice program that made us all more comfortable and less stressed during those final months of her life.
The fact that many terminally ill patients don’t enter hospice care until death is imminent has plagued the field for years. Multiple factors play a role in this pattern: public misunderstandings, tight-lipped doctors, families in denial…
If a family member or friend is seriously ill and declining, and death may be a possibility, take some time to learn more about the services of hospice. You can always save all the information in a file folder for future reference.
Check out Making the Decision to Enter Hospice Care and Ten Myths About Hospice Care, posted at the Denver Hospice. Also read an earlier blog post by Paula Span, Avoiding the Call to Hospice, published in 2009. You can also read the Hospice Fact Sheet posted at the Hospice Association of America website.