Our society is growing older by the day, and the number of aging adults will soon reach an all-time high. By 2030, about 20% of Americans will be 65 or older, up from the current 12%, the Census Bureau reported last year. In the not-too-distant future, the baby boomers will begin to think about how their lives will end, and hospice will loom ever larger in the healthcare provider landscape.
A recent study published in the journal Research in Nursing & Health, looked at more than 400 Canadians between the ages of 60 and 99 with a variety of illnesses, including chronic lung and heart problems. According to the study, companionship and intimacy have a moderate to strong positive effect on quality of life and can even enhance it over time.
Those are the same values that are brought to bear every day in hospice care. Many organizations, including mine, customize care for each patient, helping them navigate through the turbulence of serious illness. As studies focus on quality of life in older age, we as end-of-life caregivers help to enable people to live with dignity and hope while coping with loss and the coming end of life.
A very real advantage for hospice patients is the acute understanding of the limited time remaining and the support of an entire team, dedicated to adding life to the days they have left.
End-of-life care is going to become transformed by the boomers, and hospice is going to play a major role in how this care is provided. And yet, the majority of Americans seem to be unaware of what hospice really means and what hospice care can provide a dying patient and his or her family. There is a need for overall education about hospice in the next decade.
First, we must dispel the myths about hospice, which run deep: Do you really die sooner in hospice care? Is hospice only for people with cancer? Is it only available at a hospital and is it unaffordable? Heres some clarification.
A recent study showed that many people actually live longer when receiving hospice care (Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, March 2007). Hospice seeks to neither hasten nor prolong death; hospice seeks to give you the quality of life you want when facing your final days.