Most all of us, at some point in our lives, have made the statement: "If I knew then what I know now." This thought came to me this week as I reflected on the death of my parents.
My mother died three months ago and my dad died soon to be eight years ago. I was still on active duty with the Army when my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was already dealing with emphysema and was down to about one-third lung capacity so chemo and radiation treatments were out of the question. Dad lived about six weeks after the cancer diagnosis. He was on hospice service at his home in Marietta for about a week before he went into the hospital where he died a week later. He wanted to go to Camden Clark as his pulmonologist practiced in Parkersburg. I do not remember Dad being on hospice while in the hospital. I do remember dad being in a lot of pain in those final days. That was then.
The primary focus of hospice is symptom management and pain control. Before dad's death my mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Mother lived in a senior housing complex until she fell at home and was hospitalized. Upon discharge she went into a rehab facility and then went to the long term care side, specifically to the dementia unit. Shortly after becoming the chaplain for Marietta Home Health and Hospice in March 2011 I put mother onto hospice service. As mother's physical health began to decline she was moved out onto a skilled ward and hospice continued to supervise her care. Mother had been on hospice service about nine months when she died and her death was more peaceful than that of my dad. Sadly, hospice service is often relegated to the final days or hours before death.
There is so much more that can be done to provide support to the patient and their families if hospice service is brought in earlier. Hospice provides holistic care to patients and families that include medical and personal care for the patient as well as emotional and spiritual support for both patient and families and following the death bereavement support is provided for 13 months.