Hospice Care and Jimmy Carter’s Choice

Former President Jimmy Carter revealed on February 18 that he is going home from the hospital to live out the rest of his 98-year life on hospice. Back in 2015, when President Carter was diagnosed with metastatic skin cancer, I wrote a post encouraging him to set an example and go on hospice care. He instead pursued an experimental treatment that gave him eight more years of life. And that’s okay – good for him!

The news coverage over the weekend make it sound as if by going on hospice, he’s already dead. No wonder people are afraid of hospice. The problem is, most people wait too long to take advantage of the benefits of hospice. Too often, people go on hospice when they are literally at death’s door.

The guidelines for starting hospice care is a medical condition with a likelihood of causing the patient’s death within six months. Curiously, old age is not a valid diagnosis for hospice care.

Hospice is a specialized form of medical care that aims to provide comfort, support, and dignity to people who are in the final stages of a terminal illness. The primary goal of hospice care is to alleviate the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain and suffering of patients, as well as to provide support to their families and loved ones.

Hospice care can be provided in various settings, including the patient’s home, a hospice facility, a hospital, or a nursing home. Hospice care teams are typically interdisciplinary, including medical professionals, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers who work together to provide a holistic approach to care.

Care often involves managing pain and symptoms, providing emotional and spiritual support, and assisting with practical needs such as daily activities and end-of-life planning. The focus of hospice care is on the quality of life rather than the length of life, and the care is tailored to the individual needs and wishes of the patient and their family.

There’s a meme making the rounds on social media with a quote from Carter: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

I hope Jimmy Carter’s choice of hospice at this point provides a teachable moment for society at large.