Hospice: A Holiday Gift for the Nation that Never Stops Giving

During the Holiday Season we naturally remember family and close friends who are no longer with us. It is also a good time to remember the incredible benefit of hospice care that is provided by the not-for-profit hospice movement for everyone living in the United States. Blue, Red, or Purple communities — it doesn’t matter. We care for all regardless of race, citizenship status, or ability to pay. And unlike the rest of the health care world our first interaction with a terminally ill patient and family is not asking to prove insurance coverage but rather to create a customized care plan that includes the entire family — thus reducing what is often unrelenting stress and worry.

There are three important facts we must all remember about hospice care. 1. Hospice is proven to extend life and precious time with family and friends if patients enroll for months of care and not days which is too often the case. 2. The hospice team almost always provides care and comfort in the home or other permanent residence — exactly where patients want to be versus impersonal hospital surroundings. 3. Hospice care is virtually free — covered by insurance or by the providers themselves for the uninsured.

While hospice care is not for everyone, it should be the right choice for the vast majority of families with a loved one facing their end-of-life journey. If someone lives alone, we become their family thanks in part to an enormous army of wonderful volunteers who often outnumber the clinical staffs of not-for-profit hospice providers.

When we count our blessings this time of year regardless of our politics, or religion, or gender, or lifestyle, let us remember that at the end of every life the remembrance of a lifetime is best celebrated in familiar surroundings with pain-free comfort and compassion that only hospice provides — and has for the last half century.

I send my warmest wishes to you all for a happy holiday season.

-Tom Koutsoumpas