November is National Hospice Month sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). Hospice care provides a combination of medical services, emotional support, and spiritual resources for people who are in the last stages of a serious illness. Hospice care also helps family members manage the practical details and emotional challenges of caring for a dying loved one. Palliative care is specialized medical care that supplements Hospice care and focuses on pain and stress to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by doctors, nurses or other health specialist, often in teams.
Headquartered in Virginia, NHPCO is the largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. It develops public and professional educational programs and materials to enhance understanding and availability of hospice and palliative care; convenes frequent meetings and symposia on emerging issues; provides technical informational resources to its membership; conducts research; monitors Congressional and regulatory activities; and works closely with other organizations that share an interest in end of life care. As part of National Hospice Month, NHPCO is providing free support materials for family members, caregivers and those living with illness.
The NARIC collection also has resource and informational material on hospice and caregiving including: this handbook for families caring for ill or elderly loved ones and this study on problem solving in caregiving and how it can affect the patient’s adjustment to his/her state of living (available through NARIC’s document delivery service).
As we and our loved ones get older, there are health and end-of-life decisions we are faced with and need to address before we can no longer do so. As part of observing National Hospice Month, it is important that we are all aware of hospice, palliative and end-of-life decisions and issues and seek ways to take action rather than avoid them. Author Katy Butler addresses her personal experience during the latter stages of her father’s life in her book Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death. In it she tackles the uncertainties of addressing end of life decisions. Butler gives a personal account of her experience with her father on NPR’s Diane Rehm show.