Over the years, the public perception of hospice care has expanded from the notion of the last stop of life from a very tough medical journey to the larger view of what it offers: comprehensive support and extended care in a comforting, compassionate atmosphere for patients with life-limiting diseases.
November is National Hospice Month, a distinction developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization that prompts us to reflect on the growth of hospice care and the excellent, diligent care provided by dedicated professionals every day.
Each year, more than one million patients in the U.S. are cared for by hospice. There are in excess of 100,000 professionals and 400,000 volunteers who contribute medical, spiritual and social support to patients, regardless of financial resources, while preserving dignity and quality of life in their darkest hours.
Niagara Hospice cared for more than 900 Niagara County patients in 2017 and has provided services to nearly 700 thus far this year while supporting their caregivers and families. In addition to the Niagara Hospice House in Lockport, which commemorated its 10th anniversary during the summer of 2017, there are two other hospice locations in Niagara County.
The Schoellkopf Health Center and Niagara Hospice collaborate in providing specialized services at David’s Path, a facility with private rooms dedicated to meeting all of the needs for people requiring 24-hour skilled nursing care and hospice services. Residents benefit from the combined care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms. Niagara Hospice also has a partnership with The McGuire Group’s Northgate Health Care Facility for a hospice care center called Jeanne’s House that is designed for patients receiving long-term care.
Beyond delivering complementary activities that uplift patients, such as massages, music therapy and aromatherapy, hospices excel at uniting families in times of duress and fulfilling last wishes like expediting marriage plans and arranging special trips. Hospices always answer their duty in addressing the desires of each family; it’s what we do best.
Through partnerships with medical providers, nonprofit agencies and volunteers, hospices continue to raise awareness and funds to supplement care and provide additional services not covered by insurance. I am very proud of all the people who contribute their time, talents and funds to support hospice care; often times, individuals may not even have a personal link to a patient.
There is no day in which a local family is not dealing with the challenges and logistics of having a loved one needing assistance to remain independent. The need for hospice could strike at any age, thus one is never too young to formalize end-of-life planning. Any type of terminal illness can qualify an individual for hospice. While cancer remains in the public eye as the most prevalent condition, the number of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients are steadily increasing.
Hospice professionals always welcome the opportunity to have the conversation with patients to assess their prognosis. They seek to admit them sooner to manage their care and establish a comfort level to maximize the valuable time they have left. I want to thank all hospice staff and volunteers who make a difference every day for terminally ill patients and their families.
John Lomeo is the president and CEO of the HomeCare Partners (Niagara Hospice, Kalos Health and Liberty HomeCare).