When we consider what we would like our last weeks of life to be like, many envision a time as pain free and peaceful as possible. Time spent at home, a hospice facility or maybe even a nursing home. We don’t like to consider our last weeks or days spent at a hospital.
A national study put on by Harvard and U.C.S.F., showed that half of older adults (in the study) visited the ER in the last month of life and most of them died in the hospital. Emergency room staff are trained to do everything to save a life and are not particularly equipped to deal with “palliative care or end-of-life care”. ER visits can be impersonal, stressful, and even scary for elderly patients. ER visits are also very expensive as a multitude of tests are run (many of which are unnecessary for someone in the last weeks of life). In the study, the patients who were least likely to visit the ER were those in a Hospice program.
Death in a hospital room is something that can often be avoided. Even though death at a nursing home isn’t what most people prefer; it can be argued that it has benefits. The nursing home provides 24 hour care, the senior’s room has a few personal items (for example, family photos on the wall) and staff who are familiar with the older adult (and family). Not every town has a Hospice in-patient facility, but there are often such facilities in a larger, nearby city. Many towns have Hospice programs that offer services at home.
In order to decrease the number of elderly patients who die in a hospital, doctors must have frank and in-depth discussions with their patients and family members concerning end-of-life options (particularly palliative and Hospice care). These conversations should also be held sooner, rather than later.
If your loved one is sick and frail and your doctor has yet to discuss end-of-life options, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss this topic. It is not easy, but the outcome will certainly be more pleasant if you are willing to have that tough conversation now.
Wanting to know more about an in-patient Hospice facility, I went to the on-line site of the Hospice House of Savannah, Georgia. They have a 28 bed facility and offer many supportive services. If you are curious about what an in-patient Hospice program is all about, consider visiting this site: http://www.hospicesavannah.org
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