There are a lot of misconceptions about hospice. People tend to think that choosing hospice care instead of hospital care is like giving up instead of fighting to keep living. Many people don’t want to “give in” to accepting hospice care until it is too late for it to have a real impact on their quality of life. And that’s what hospice is really about – ensuring quality of life until the very end. However, since most of us won’t have any experience with hospice until and unless we are in the position to need it, or have a loved one who needs it, it is hard to dispel this misunderstanding.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of hospice care in the United States, a new website has been created to help educate the public about the real goals of hospice care. The site is called Moments of Life (www.momentsoflife.org), and is part of a new campaign to show, through video clips and short written statements, the kinds of final experiences people are able to have by including hospice in their end of life plans. There is the 51-year-old father diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer who was able to dance with his daughter in honor of her wedding. There is the opera-lover who was able to gather with family and friends for one last concert of the music he enjoyed so much. There was the woman diagnosed with ALS who, through the guidance and assistance of her hospice nurse, was able to continue working on her art projects and even hold a lavish tea party with her grandchildren.
Just as important as giving these desired “moments of life” to those with terminal illnesses, is the help hospice provides to families coping with saying goodbye. Studies have shown that people who watch their loved ones die painful deaths in hospitals’ intensive care units are more likely to suffer from depression after their loved ones’ passing. The families of those who choose hospice care are able to see their loved ones living out the ends of their lives without pain, usually remaining in the comfort of their own homes. Hospice care also provides a litany of specialists to help both the terminally ill and their families in hopes of easing the pain of this process for everyone involved.
This type of patient-friendly information is just right for many people: people without medical backgrounds who really do not want to be thinking about this topic. In the end, hospice care will be relevant for a significant number of people. Some of these may decide with their families that hospice is simply not the right choice for them. Others may decide that it absolutely is. Regardless, all deserve the chance to make an informed decision about how they want to live their precious final months. And this includes having a realistic, not misconceived, understanding of what hospice can and can’t do for them and their families.