Guest Column: Don't Wait to Talk About Hospice

By Patricia HaradenHospice Services of Western Mass
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It's an all too common situation. A family is at the bedside of a loved one who is seriously ill and nearing the end of life. Each member of the family has a different idea of what should be done and what the patient would have wanted.

Since November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, Hospice Services of Western Massachusetts wants to encourage people to learn more about hospice resources before they face a health-care crisis.

"Coping with a serious or life-limiting illness is not easy. In fact, it might be the hardest work you'll ever do. Working with doctors and hospitals, navigating the maze of care needs, figuring out insurance coverage, all in addition to taking care of your family, can be overwhelming," says Janet McClelland, executive director for Hospice Services of Western Mass. She adds, "we want the community to know that there's help available that brings comfort, love, and respect when they're most needed."

In fact, that's the message behind this year's Hospice Month theme: Comfort, Love, Respect.

Hospice care is different than traditional health-care services. Hospices provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. Hospice care combines the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that is so important for patients and family caregivers coping with serious and life-limiting illness.

Research shows that eight out of 10 Americans would want to stay in their homes surrounded by family and loved ones if they were faced with a life-limiting illness. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reports that more than 1.58 million people received care from our nation's hospices last year.

Hospice benefits are intended for the final months of a patient's life yet more than 35 percent of patients die or are discharged within seven days of starting hospice care. Noting that this time is too short to gain full benefits of hospice care, McCelland says, "Families who have experienced hospice care often say that they wish they had gotten a referral to hospice sooner.

"This is why we encourage people to learn about services and discuss their wishes with their families before services are needed."

Information about hospice is available from Hospice Services of Western Massachusetts or by calling 413-442-0045.

Patricia Haraden is the marketing and community liaison for Hospice Services of Western Massachusetts. She can be reached at

Tags: hospice,   illness,   

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