As a medical oncologist and a hospice director I am often asked, “Isn’t your job depressing?” This question is then typically followed by “you must be a special person” and a “thank you for all you do”. For the longest time I was unsure how to respond to these statements and questions so I simply said “thank you”.
After further pondering, I now realize it does in fact take a special and unique perspective to be involved in end of life care. Physicians are trained to cure patients. Recognizing a patient is nearing end of life due to disease progression can be very tricky and uncomfortable for physicians, especially since strong personal relationships have developed. Some providers fear initiating a hospice conversation because they feel they are giving up or abandoning their patient.
To improve the healthcare journey of our community, we must all embrace the fact that life is finite and certain diseases are simply not curable. This is reality, not defeat. When a provider recognizes their patient likely has less than 6 months to live and philosophically doesn’t want treatment or can no longer tolerate treatment, this is the time to transition the patient to hospice care.
Recognizing a patient is nearing end of life due to disease progression can be very tricky and uncomfortable for physicians.
I’ve discovered that initiating end of life discussions with patients and families can actually provide relief. Helping them redefine hope takes their focus off of the disease and onto all the things that still bring joy, like being comfortable and spending quality time with those they love. The gratitude expressed by patients and families for helping them live fully in the end is the inspiration that motivates me every day.
So why hospice? Because although it may not change the outcome it WILL transform the end of life journey.
Why now? Because hospice adds life to days when we can’t add days to life.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of hospice care or the signs which indicate hospice is appropriate, please contact Unity at 920-339-1111 to schedule a Speakers Bureau education presentation or a free in home assessment.
David M.Schrier M.D serves as the Medical Director at Unity Hospice.
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