National Hospice & Palliative Care Month: “It’s About How You Live”

By: Dr. Pamela Harris, KCH Director of Medical Programs
Published: Nov 9, 2022

“It’s About How You Live” is this year’s theme for National Hospice and Palliative Care Month which we celebrate in November. Announced in 1978 by then President Jimmy Carter, the month was established to recognize the efforts of those who provide end-of-life care, and to help raise awareness of the growing hospice movement so the community is familiar with the options available for people dealing with serious or life-limiting illness. When the observance was first established, the number of hospice patients in the United States numbered in the thousands. Hospice numbers, and the number of patients served, have markedly increased from that time. Most recently published statistics by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that in 2018 there were 4,700 hospice providers in the United States, with 66% of them being for profit. In that year, hospice programs in the U.S. provided care to more than 1.61 million people.

Living under hospice and palliative care
Choice in care is a focus of hospice; and like this year’s theme, at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care (KCH) we work with each person, and their family, to make sure they are able to choose how they want to live. The goal of both hospice and palliative care is to maximize peoples’ quality of life, as there is a lot of living that occurs under our care. We maximize quality of life by managing pain and addressing physical symptoms of serious and life-threatening illness in order to ensure comfort. We also take a whole-person approach to address our patient’s emotional and spiritual needs. The palliative portion of our care, also referred to as supportive care or comfort care, manages uncomfortable symptoms related to a serious disease or its treatment, such as pain or shortness of breath. The primary goal of palliative care is to optimize quality of life for people coping with serious health challenges. The simplest way to think about hospice care is, when the focus shifts from curative treatment to ensuring comfort and quality of life.

KCH care goes above and beyond
Generally, end-of-life care is meant for people whose life expectancy is six months or less, but hospice care can be provided for as long as the person’s doctor and hospice care team certify that the condition remains life-limiting. While the primary focus of hospice care is for the person who is ill, at Kansas City Hospice care is also provided to their loved ones, including through the grief process. This care can include psychological or spiritual support, and can also include respite care for family caregivers which allows them to look after their own needs.

One of the main hospice care benefits to families is that it relieves stress from loved ones – so they can spend time being a family member and not just a caregiver. Something important to the medical staff at KCH is to honor patient’s last wishes and over the years some of the things we have been able to do for our patients include visiting with a horse, belly dancer, Elvis impersonator, BigFoot the monster truck, luau, weddings and renewals of wedding vows, travel home to family in Mexico, and attending a Super Bowl game. It is important to us to allow patients and families to spend as much quality time together as possible.

Providing leading care services

KCH has been an area leader in our field since 1980, when we served our very first patient on November 3. Over time, Kansas City Hospice has seen growth across many areas of care. We’ve grown to serve patients and families in two inpatient hospice houses, in homes in parts of 12 counties around the metro area, and through pediatric and perinatal hospice. Solace House, Passages counseling, and grief camps are also now an important part of our scope of services and palliative care consults are now provided in two area hospitals: Advent Health Shawnee Mission and Research Medical Center. Our home-based palliative care team, Advanced Illness Support, will soon be joined by the Medicare demonstration project, ACO Reach, to provide care for even more patients with serious illness at an earlier phase of their illnesses. Through all of this growth through the years, we have proudly maintained our nonprofit status.

If you or someone you know would benefit from hospice or palliative care services please do not hesitate to contact Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care at 816.363.2600 to get your questions answered and learn more about our services.

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