(Photo above, Courtesy of Partners In Care)
Over the past few weeks, we have heard statements about some of our country’s most prominent citizens relating to hospice and the end of life, using phrases such as “discontinuing medical treatment” and “gravely ill and now on hospice.” These are powerful words that influence our thinking about end-of-life care.
As is often the case, we hear the word “hospice” and think “hopeless.” And we may also believe that hospice signals the end of all medical treatments when, in fact, it is an escalation of care focused on the reduction of symptoms associated with a terminal illness. It means that the patient’s perspective on their life has shifted and thus so have their goals of care. Instead of continuing with treatments or therapies designed to cure disease, a transition is made to compassionate care designed to alleviate suffering. These medical disciplines are every bit as important as curative care as they seek to preserve one’s quality of life near the end.
For patients with serious chronic illnesses, the decision to change their goals is a complex one — especially today when palliative care can co-exist with curative treatments.
Our primal instinct is to fight as long and as hard as possible to rid our bodies of disease. From this perspective, patients “win” or “lose” their battles even if their fate has nothing to do with personal courage or dogged determination.
Patients naturally struggle to balance the reality of the situation with providing the potential blessing of time, peace, and comfort. End-of-life care is not checklist medicine. It is not about statistics or studies. It is about taking the time to reflect on one’s life and engaging in a process that leads to shared decisions and mutual trust between the patient, their family members and the healthcare provider.
Partners In Care is a trusted provider of end-of-life care in Central Oregon. Their guidance to the residents of Central Oregon for nearly forty years is unsurpassed. “Our role is to support patients so they can have the dignity to make difficult choices and feel empowered to make their own way,” said Deborah Adams, Clinical Services Director at Partners In Care. “Communication is vital as we work to educate and care for people at this important time in their lives.”
Marlene Carlson is the director of development and communications at Partners In Care, an independent, nonprofit provider of hospice and home health care services based in Central Oregon.