Hospice… Game Over? No, Game On!
By: Dr. Bryan Hooker, Hospice Atlanta Medical Director
What do you think of when you hear the word hospice? You think “game over,” right? Well that’s not necessarily accurate. Hospice care, as a philosophy, focuses on the relief of terminally ill patients’ symptoms and pain while attending to their emotional and spiritual needs. Contrary to the assumption that hospice equals death, data shows that early referral to hospice actually improves life expectancy.
The appreciation for hospice care has grown; in fact, November has been named Homecare and Hospice Month. The month that hosts Thanksgiving, and as leaves fall to the ground most likely to represent the end of life, November is an ideal time to discuss hospice philosophy and examine how Hospice Atlanta serves a vital role in caring for the most vulnerable in our community.
The Journey of Hospice
Recently at our inpatient unit Hospice Atlanta Center, an elderly man Jim (not his real name) was admitted after suffering an intracerebral hemorrhage from a fall. He was unable to speak and was partially paralyzed in more than half his body. He was very agitated and restless and appeared to be in pain. His medical records also revealed he suffered from cancer. With the help of the social worker and several other team members, we discovered Jim was an attorney living in squalor with his beloved dog, Roscoe. Our team made daily visits and rarely did we notice family members present. Although Jim’s condition improved over time and he was finally able to speak in 4 to 5 word sentences, it became clear to us that he would no longer be able to live independently. Although we provide care for those without means for payment, we do not provide the type of living facility Jim needed, so we began searching for a safe place that would accept patients without funding. As we nursed him back to health, our social worker found the perfect facility for him and even found a happy home for Roscoe too. We discussed our plan of care with his family, who felt some sense of relief that their father would continue to receive excellent supportive care.
Through the tireless efforts of our entire team, including nurses providing compassionate care, aides helping to bathe and feed Jim, his social worker scouring options for placement, our volunteer sitting at his bedside, and our chaplain praying for us all, the last few days of Jim’s life were peaceful and comfortable. This journey that our hospice team took with Jim and his family reminds me of the quote by Robert Frost: “Hope is not found in a way out but a way through.” It is this type of journey all of us at Hospice Atlanta hope to give each and every patient.
So ask yourself again, what do you think of when you hear the word hospice? At Hospice Atlanta, we hope our patients think “game on.”