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

every year," Schumacher said. "This year, 1.5 million people will have received hospice care. The increase is continuing as the knowledge of hospice is increasing in the health-care industry."

Hospice care, often recommended for people who have fewer than six months to live, focuses on making people comfortable rather than curing their disease. Usually, care is provided in the person's home, although a person also can receive care in hospice centers, nursing homes and, increasingly, hospitals, according to the hospice organization. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most health insurance plans.

A person's hospice team develops a care plan that helps control pain and symptoms. The team also will:

  • Help the patient and family members deal with the emotional and spiritual aspects of dying.
  • Equip the patient's home with needed medical supplies and equipment.
  • Coach family members on caring for the person.
  • Provide quick-response care on an around-the-clock basis when pain or symptoms flare up.
  • Make bereavement care available to the patient's surviving family and friends.

Hospice has had to overcome many myths and ill-conceived notions on its way to gaining wider acceptance from the public.

But one notion that patients and their families still struggle with is the idea that choosing hospice means the person is "giving up." People who go into hospice are free to leave at any time, if their symptoms improve or they decide to pursue a new curative treatment, Pacurar said.

"It's not about giving up," she said. "It's about regaining control of your life at this time when chaos is reigning."

In fact, people who agree to hospice care often end up with extended life spans. One recent study cited by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization found that people who chose hospice care lived an average of one month longer than similar people who did not opt for ho
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