Hospice Care is Humane Care
It seems like everywhere we turn nowadays there is someone close to us that is dying. It is either a tragedy or, more commonly, an illness such as cancer or heart disease. As I've gotten "less young" which is my politically correct term for "older," I have come to experience the frailty of life. I have also come to understand that my role as a physician is not to simply be there for patients to promote healthy lifestyles and to intervene to help stamp out disease or illnesses. My job is also to be available to patients and their families for comfort and support when the body of my patient is wearing down and they are in the final stages of life. It is my belief that every human has a right to pass peacefully from this world when the time comes with both comfort and dignity.
For that and many more reasons I have been an associate medical director for a local hospice company, Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care. Our hospice teams of physicians, nurses, case managers, chaplains, grief counselors, nursing aids, social worker, and volunteers have been with literally thousands of patients in Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Bedford, and Moore County providing care to those patients and support for their families. When people hear that I am a "hospice physician" they will often respond with "Well bless your heart. I bet that is a tough job." While it can be challenging or "tough" for many reasons, I can tell you that I have found it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a Family Physician.
There are many studies that show that terminally ill patients on hospice actually live longer than patients with the same disease who choose other treatment options. There are many reasons for this, but the most important reason, in my opinion, is the fact that our fantastic group of hospice nurses makes themselves available 24/7 and will answer the call or come running to the bedside day or night whenever needed. After assessing a patient, they will call the physician and we can then begin antibiotics if needed, or diuretics, or give a shot, or help with anxiety, or breathing issues. Patients without hospice simply have to call 911 and go back to the hospitals yet again for inpatient treatment which includes needles, IV's, bloodwork, and imaging studies. I pray that neither I nor any of you will ever need hospice, but just know that if you do, we will come running.