“Rising health care costs and their consequences for federal health insurance programs constitute the nation’s central fiscal challenge.” , Congressional Budget Office.
Among the many economic concerns faced by the Obama administration, health care costs remain a complex issue. There are few easy, proven answers.
But there is heartening news in one area of medicine: hospice care.
Findings of a major study by Duke University in 2007 confirmed that hospice services save money. It concluded that along with the comprehensive approach of hospice care, it reduces costs to Medicare by $2,309 per person.
Increasing hospice services by even three days during the course of care can increase savings by nearly 10 percent.
But more importantly to the patients and the families, hospice care allows individuals to live their lives to the fullest, without pain and without fear.
Sadly, though, only half of the individuals in San Diego County who could benefit from hospice care receive it. And of those who do, the average length of hospice care is just seven days.
It has been said that at the end of our lives, we want to remain in our own homes. But the reality is that 50 percent to 75 percent of all deaths occur in a hospital.
However, among patients in hospice care, 90 percent remain in their homes. Recent studies have shown that patients on hospice care live longer and better lives.
February is the 32nd anniversary of the founding of San Diego Hospice, the region’s first hospice. There is no better time to raise awareness of this unique medical specialty designed to prevent and relieve suffering and promote quality of life, at every stage of life.
Most people don’t imagine themselves becoming hospice patients.
Not To Be In Pain
It was true for Karen Speziale. Karen had worked as an executive in the health care and hospice fields herself. But when her cancer re-emerged in 2007, she had two wishes: not to be in pain, and to receive care from San Diego Hospice.
Through our agency, Karen received all the patient care resources needed to help manage her pain. Her care team also provided valuable emotional and spiritual support. When Karen went on hospice care, she told her son, Matthew Hutcheson, “If I only have six months … I want it to be the best six months ever.”
She wanted people around her who could live life to the fullest with her. The entire staff of the hospice assured them this was their goal, too. Our focus was to help Karen live each day to the fullest for as long as life lasts.
Speziale died last June and it was the way she wanted it to be: surrounded by her family, in comfort and in peace. Her life is proof of this.
Being on hospice helped Karen and her family embrace this journey. Hutcheson believes she lived a fuller life in the last few months than she would have without our service.
San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine serves more than 10,000 members of the community every year, from patient care to support for family members experiencing grief and loss with counseling and guidance each year through its Center for Grief Care and Education.
The far-reaching benefits of these programs bring value to patient and family care, as well as cost-savings to the health care infrastructure.
It is our belief that no one should live in pain, no one should live in fear, and no one should die feeling alone For information, visit our Web site at sdhospice.org.
Jan Cetti is CEO of the San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine.