No Better Time Than Earlier
Story by Bethany Vonseggern
In healthcare, professionals often hear families and patients say they wish they had known sooner. Know what exactly? Preventative care options, home care options, support options? This list could go on because as we avoid mortality and the reality of our aging family (and selves) we inadvertently miss considering the options that can provide ourselves and our loved ones with a meaningful experience at the end of life.
As a child, I witnessed my grandparents on palliative and hospice care. I don’t remember the medical nature of the experience, but I do recall the feelings I had watching them live out their last months. I remember the warmth, the love, and the calm that overpowered the despair of the looming loss because my family was able to spend quality time together making new memories. Now as an adult, I know it was because my family had the support from hospice providers allowing them to be more than my grandparents’ caregivers; they were able to be the child of the parent they were about to lose.
This ability to lean on a healthcare provider and a team of compassionate professionals was a gift to my family during this time. In fact, it’s something we speak about often, especially now as we are all aging. It’s organizations like Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care (KCH) that allow families, such as mine, to spend quality time with their loved ones as they receive hospice or palliative care. It also gives us the strength and wisdom to speak about what we need as family caregivers.
What many people don’t know is hospice is a type of palliative care and has the goal to maximize quality of life. At Kansas City Hospice in addition to hospice care, two palliative care programs, Palliative Home Health, and Advanced Illness Support are offered. Each program differs from hospice based on the patient’s goals. For instance, palliative care provides comfort and can be provided in conjunction with curative treatment while hospice is appropriate when the decision to end curative treatment has been made and the focus shifts to comfort and quality of life. It is a type of specialized care for people who have a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months or less.
As an adult, I have further witnessed hospice care – in a positive light – but at a caregiver’s expense when they waited too long to incorporate expert support because they were hesitant to ask for help or didn’t know what else to do as caregivers. Decisions were made too late and led to regret for not having more time with a loved one and not knowing how to process the loss. What I wish they had known was that hospice doesn’t mean you’re giving up all medical treatment. Rather, the focus of your treatment shifts from trying to cure your disease to ensuring your symptoms are controlled, so you are able to gain a better quality of life and enjoy your remaining days, weeks, and months.
This knowledge is power, which is one reason I am glad there is a month to cast light on the importance of palliative and hospice care. Each November National Hospice & Palliative Care Month is celebrated by organizations across the country. It’s a time when healthcare providers can educate local communities about the many benefits of hospice and palliative care. Kansas City Hospice offers comprehensive guidance through expert staff and resources online at KCHospice.org. Whether you’re looking for caregiver resources, education about palliative or hospice care or want to speak with a medical professional about options, KCH is available to help you and your family.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness, please consider your options. Reach out to a local hospice and palliative care provider to assist you with making the best decision for your family. Accept the support and expertise to allow your family the time to cherish the memories you are creating with your loved one because at the end of the day all you have is the present. There’s no better time than earlier to gain information and consider options, so you can enjoy your time in the present.