Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Delay - Seek Concurrent Care

     One of the main problems plaguing both human and animal hospice is that people wait too long to find us.  There is so much hospice can do to ease all types of suffering - from physical to psychological, to social and even spiritual.  Studies have shown that even just 4 days of hospice care can make a impact, but those of us working in hospice know that if we can have a few months with the family, we can make a huge difference in the level of care, comfort and peace for the patient and the entire family.

     Why do people wait?  Sometimes people don't know we exist (especially true for animal hospice), sometimes people think all we do is care for those in the active dying process, but often people are afraid.

     In the human hospice world, to qualify for hospice care, you must have a terminal diagnosis of less than 6 months to live and you must agree to forgo all further life-prolonging or curative treatment.

     That can be a very scary and difficult decision for a person and his or her family to make.  And some refuse to ever make that choice.  We don't like feeling like we are giving up or giving in to illness or age.  We believe in the promise that if we want something bad enough, if we work hard enough, if we find an expert smart enough, anything is possible.

     Part of hospice is coming to peace with the realty that sometimes those things are not true.

     But hospice care does not have to apply only when all else has failed and only when you agree to forgo curative treatment.  A study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2010:363:733-42), confirmed what many in the hospice care world have long believed: that hospice care benefits patients with life limiting illness even when they continue to pursue curative or life-prolonging treatment.  In the study, patients with lung cancer were randomly assigned to receive "standard care" or standard care PLUS early hospice care.  The group receiving early hospice care (while still pursuing curative treatment), had a higher quality of life, suffered less depression, and lived longer.

     Receiving on-going treatment while also receiving hospice or palliative care is called "concurrent care" and is what we practice at New England Pet Hospice.  We believe that the foundation principles of hospice care benefit all animals who are advancing in age or have a life limiting disease without regard to the treatment being undertaken or the projected time left to live.

     Getting hospice care early in your animal's illness or decline:
  • helps ensure your animal is getting the very best in attentive, quality care
  • eases your burden
  • reduces stress and anxiety
  • gives you and your family a place to vent, discuss, question and explore
  • provides ready access to support
  • prepares your animal, you and your family for a peaceful, calm and loving end of life experience
     If you are living with an elderly or terminally ill animal but are not sure whether hospice care is right - or right at this moment - for your animal and your family, call your hospice care provider and see what they have to offer.  You may be surprised and relieved to find an understanding care provider who can make a big difference in your animal's life and your experience.

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