LA Times columnist Steve Lopez’s recent column about his mother’s “bungled transfer from hospital to residential care” gave me pause.
His mother had been in the hospital suffering from a number of illnesses and the hospital judged she should enter hospice. Unfortunately, Mr. Lopez and his family had not anticipated making this important decision beforehand so “felt rushed ... and [pressured] to quickly choose a hospice agency.” Tragically, she was transported “in distress, without being sedated ... with none of her prescribed medications,” nor the promised hospice nurse.
His and his family’s distress was so acute they contemplated suing the hospice agency. His research into mechanisms to lodge a complaint left him equally frustrated. He turned to elder-care advocate Charlene Herrington who said, “with so many patients going directly from hospital to hospice [as Mr. Lopez’s] mother did, hospitals need to do a much better job of helping families educate themselves on hospice options, and they need to allow them adequate time to make informed decisions before discharging dying patients.” You can read more about their ordeal by inserting LA Times Steve Lopez in your computer’s search engine. He has several columns on the subject.
Mr. Lopez and his family’s anguish need not be our experience. Let’s not wait until we, or our elderly family members, are facing our final days, weeks, or months. Let’s not leave it up to the hospitals to make us decide at the worst possible time.
According to www.webmd.com, “[Hospice] is for people who have learned from doctors that they are not expected to recover from their condition. It’s about easing pain and helping families prepare for end of life ... [and] generally are expected to have less than 6 months to live.” They could live out their days at home, at a specialized center, or at many nursing homes and hospitals.
My research has turned up too much information to help us navigate the process for one column, but here’s some:
The website www.verywellhealth.com offers “The 5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Hospice Provider: 1) The location of the staff 2) What are the types of medical professionals employed by the hospice 3) Is the hospice owned privately or is it a nonprofit? 4) Does the hospice have a good relationship with a pharmacy? 5) What levels of care are offered by the hospice? The site will give you the details as well as additional information to consider.
Caring.com (www.caring.com) offers 8 Ways Hospice Care Can Benefit Your Loved One at End of Life.
Take a look at www.yelp.com. Type in Hospice in the Find Box (near Santa Barbara will automatically be part of the search) and you’ll see a number of 4 and 5 star reviews of hospice services closest to our neck of the woods. You can compare and contrast not only services but also which facilities are for-profit or nonprofit. The ratings are from those who have used their services.
It’s the toughest life event to face, to talk about, and to navigate, but we must. And we will, in my next two columns.
Until next time ... keep thinking the good thoughts.