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More People Choosing Hospice at Life's End
Date:1/28/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- People facing a fatal illness often find their fears and pain exacerbated by lack of control -- with doctors poking and prodding and treating and testing even as the end grows near.

Hospice care, however, can give back some control over someone's final days through its compassionate focus on treating pain and helping both the dying person and the person's family emotionally grapple with what's to come.

Little wonder, then, that hospice has become an increasingly popular option for people with a fatal illness.

"I don't know about you, but when I'm sick and not feeling good, I'd much rather be at home," said J. Donald Schumacher, president and chief executive of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a nonprofit group of hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. "I think dying is the same way. If you're going to die, it's better to be in your own environment and away from the high-technology setting of the hospital."

Hospice care also has become more popular because it is almost always a more cost-effective way of caring for someone who's terminally ill.

"What happens is, because the disease process is so acute, the patient makes a lot of trips to the emergency room and a lot of trips to the hospital," said Kathleen Pacurar, president and chief executive of San Diego Hospice and the Institute for Palliative Medicine. "With hospice, because we are managing their symptoms and pain and we're available 24/7, patients call us rather than the medics when they are in pain or distress. That means fewer trips to the hospital and a lot fewer medical procedures."

Nearly two of every five people who died in the United States in 2008 were under the care of a hospice program at the time of their death, according to the national hospice group.

"It actually increases pretty steadily
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