Thursday, November 5, 2009

November is National Hospice Month.

As hospice facilities continue to hold bake sales to garner funding and doctor's across the globe lament the lack of medical industry investment in palliative care - and as we celebrate national hospice month - a new report shows that patients are experiencing shorter and shorter stays at hospice facilities before their deaths:

More than 35 percent (35.4)of patients served by hospices in 2008 died or were discharged in seven days or less reports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. This reflects a 4.6 percent increase from 2007, when 30.8 percent of patients had what is considered a short hospice experience. Patients and families receiving care for seven days or less are often unableto take full advantage of the range of benefits that the hospice interdisciplinary team provides. These benefits include psychosocial support and spiritual care for patients and their families as well as pain management and symptom control. While the average length of service increased from 67.4 days in 2007 to 69.5 days in 2008, the jump in patients receiving care for a short time is of concern to hospice providers and NHPCO. Only 12.1 percent of those served died or were discharged with service of 180 days or more.
As our nation's population continues to grey, this is an alarming, costly, service-limiting, inhumane trend, a profound example of neglect of end of life care..
And an aside:  Oregon state, where Death with Dignity has been legal since 1994, boasts one of the most robust and advanced hospice and palliative programs in the country.  Proof perhaps that a fact-based and direct approach to patient choice in dying works best for elder and terminal patients. 

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