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Hospice Advocacy Shines through The Carters’ Spotlight

In February, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced that he was entering hospice care. While many, including a few of his relations, took his announcement as an indication that he might only have days left to live, he celebrated his 99th birthday in October.

His longevity while in hospice care has encouraged discussion, particularly around the concept that hospice care is synonymous with impending death. About 5% of patients see hospice care as a type of giving up. As an alternative, the discussion about hospice care should concentrate on the advantages for patients and their families, including improved quality of life, having fun with time with family and friends, and relief from pain and symptoms. Often, many patients also report feeling relief from existential pain.

While hospice care takes place after a physician determines someone is probably going inside their last six months of life, it doesn’t at all times mean patients on hospice only have six months left to live. Patients can requalify for service periodically if a reevaluation determines their condition has not improved due to their life-limiting illness. Also, some patients may “graduate” from hospice care as a consequence of improvement in health or because they resolve to pursue curative treatment.

Research shows that hospice care improves quality of life for patients and families, but it will probably also increase their length of life. A Journal of Pain and Symptom Management study found that hospice patients lived a median of 29 days longer than similar patients not in hospice care. The Recent England Journal of Medicine found hospice patients with certain diagnoses lived longer, were in less pain, and had increased emotional well-being than similar patients who weren’t receiving hospice care.

Despite these findings, in 2020, the median length of hospice look after Medicare patients before they passed away was only 18 days, with one-quarter of patients receiving hospice look after lower than every week. Among the reasons for delaying hospice care come from the health continuum, where the preference is to delay life without regard for quality of life.

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