Monthly Archives: May 2012

Changing Attitudes About Death (As We Grow Older)

Remember when you were a child and you first realized what death was? Did you run to your mother and ask if you were going to die? And when she said, “Yes, honey,” did you start crying? And when she said, “But not for a long, long time,” did you stop crying? Or was it just some of us who had that experience?

The concept of death is hard to grasp when one is young and full of life. As years go by and we lose a relative here and a friend or classmate there, the reality of death becomes clearer. But when we are teenagers and young adults, we feel bulletproof. We don’t generally think about our own deaths, because they seem so far away.

As we glide into middle age, mortality becomes more certain. (Not that anybody ever thinks he or she they will elude the Grim Reaper in the long run.) We note occasional deaths of people our own ages. Strange aches, pains and spasms cause us to wonder if they may be the beginning of something big.

As we hit our 60’s, we notice that more of our contemporaries are passing away. We may look at the obituaries in the newspaper or online each day and check the ages of all who are listed. A knowledge that has been at the back of our minds for decades now moves to the forefront.

The point is that our thoughts about death change radically as we pass through the ages of our lives. The fact that death is inevitable is easily whisked aside in the early decades. When it comes back into a more prominent spot in our consciousness later in life, that inevitability may be easier to deal with and acknowledge.

Hospice employees deal with all these attitudes toward death on a frequent basis—with patients, caregivers and family members. Among those that Hope Hospice serves, some are ready to address realities while others must make adjustments. This is where a hospice team of professionals can provide a type of service that’s different from other forms of medical care.

Even as a person becomes less uncomfortable with the concept of death in the later years of life, facing up to one’s own death is generally difficult. Our entire Hope Hospice team carefully guides patients through this journey to the end of life. Chaplains and social workers help prepare patients (and caregivers and other family members) for the inevitability of death. This element of care is what makes hospice truly special.

For information about hospice care and all its components, call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.


This Year, Make Memorial Day Really Matter

Ask a hundred people in St. Louis what Memorial Day means to them and your answers will generally range from “going to the lake,” “opening up the pool” and “firing up the grill” to “the Indy 500,” “the Gypsy Caravan” and “the Greek Festival.”

Among that hundred, a few might say, “it’s a time to remember those who have given their lives for our country.” Let’s do our best this year to make sure that we all take time to honor those who died while serving America.

We should think of those who lost their lives on battlefields or at sea. We need to remember our citizens whose lives ended in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Pearl Harbor, the South Pacific and every other scene of American military bloodshed. Those who died are real people who sacrificed their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms and pleasures of our lives. We owe them our eternal gratitude and respect.

How should we commemorate Memorial Day? If you have an American flag, fly it. Fly it at half-staff until noon, then raise it to full-staff until sunset.

If you live near a military cemetery, take a walk or a drive through the grounds. For St. Louis area residents, a drive through the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery can be a truly moving experience. The Cemetery will hold a special Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 28, at 12:30 p.m.

Attend a Memorial Day event in your town or neighborhood. Alton, Illinois will host a large Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 28, at 10:00 a.m. Many communities and organizations such as VFW’s will hold special events. You can find event listings in your local newspaper or online.

If you know a family that has lost a loved one in the line of battle, tell them that you are thinking of their son/daughter, husband/wife or father/mother who gave all. If there is a special fund for military widows in your community, make a donation.

This year, don’t let Memorial Day pass without giving honor to those for whom the day was created. Be sure to share your Memorial Day thoughts and experiences with your children or grandchildren. Enjoy the company of friends and family, play in the water, grill brats and pork steaks, but take time to remember those who made our modern American lifestyle possible.

We at Hope Hospice encourage you to make Memorial Day really matter in 2012.

Hospice Costs: The Rest of the Story

Legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey delivered a popular feature called “The Rest of the Story.” He would hook listeners with a catchy opening, provide some vague details and then reveal an often surprising ending. His concluding line was always: “And now you know… the rest of the story!”

How about this for an attention getting headline? “Government Spending More Than $12 Billion On Hospice Care.”

In 2011, ABC News reported that the amount Medicare pays hospice care organizations had increased 53% from 2005 to 2009. The main reason, says the report, is the number of patients using hospice also increased significantly.

The amount that Medicare paid hospices in 2009 was over $12 billion dollars, according to the ABC News report. That’s billion with a “B.” That’s a lot of money. That’s a figure that gets attention.

ABC News, to its credit, goes on in the report to explain what hospice care is, then quotes Robert Field, a health management professor from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He says that hospice care “is used more and more because it’s worked out for many people.”

The story also quotes the Don Schumacher, head of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, who makes the excellent point that “hospice still saves the government money.”

The ABC report concluded with two telling quotes:

“For every patient admitted to hospice, it saves approximately $2,250 compared to patients with similar illnesses not admitted to hospice care,” said Schumacher.

“The fact that the government is spending more on hospice care might be a good thing,” said Field. “That could be money we’re not spending on long-term care or hospital care.”

Yes, Medicare spending on hospice care has increased because more people are using hospice. More people are using hospice because more people know about it and have been told about its benefits. Because more people are using hospice instead of spending time in hospitals, hospice is actually saving the government money!

And now you know…

….the rest of the story!




When Should I Call Hospice?

When spouses, companions or parents have seriously deteriorating physical conditions, when should the question of hospice be raised?

When it becomes apparent that chemo or other treatments are having little impact on the condition, and are resulting in painful side effects, it’s time to discuss hospice care with the doctor.

When the patient expresses a desire to stop treatment and live out the rest of her or his life without frequent trips to the hospital, it’s time to ask the doctor about hospice.

When a doctor first mentions average survival rates and times, it’s time for the patient and caregiver to learn about hospice, to be able to make an informed choice when the need arises.

When a doctor is reluctant to face the reality of a patient’s condition, it’s time to call a hospice care agency and ask for information and suggestions.

When a doctor says the patient is terminal, but needs to spend his/her last days or weeks in a hospital, call a hospice care agency to compare end-of-life on hospice care with end-of-life in a hospital bed.

When friends and other family members tell you that hospice care can provide comfort to the patient and give you, the caregiver, needed help, call a hospice agency for information.

When a loved is not receiving regular medical attention, but seems to be in a pattern of gradually declining health, call a hospice agency for information and guidance.

When a diagnosis is given indicating that life expectancy is six months or less, the doctor should offer a hospice referral. Remember that you can choose whichever hospice you prefer.

When the end is near and the patient and medical team have exhausted all possibilities for life extension, call a hospice agency.

Hospice care organizations, including Hope Hospice, take patients in their final days of life. But hospice can offer so much more to the patient, the primary caregiver and the family if the call to hospice is made earlier in the end-of-life process.

At Hope Hospice, we take calls everyday from people who want to know about hospice. They ask, “Why should my husband, my dad, my sister, my best friend consider hospice care?”

The answers are not always quick and easy. We are happy to take as much time as needed to answer all your questions about hospice care. Call us anytime at 314-984-9800.