November is National Hospice & Palliative Care Month
Focus on how you live instead of the time you have left
By Amy Roth Sandrolini
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and I’m joining caregivers across the country in celebrating the comfort, care, dignity and choice that hospice and palliative care programs provide to 1.6 million people in this country each year living with a life-limiting illness. A theme this year is: “It’s About How You Live.”
While that may seem counter-intuitive for a month dedicated to raising awareness about end-of-life care programs, as a hospice worker, I know that it points to the heart of the services we provide. Hospice and palliative care programs begin and end with a focus on improving the quality of life of patients, as well as their families, who are facing complex issues associated with a serious illness.
Specifically, hospice and palliative programs provide comfort, pain management, symptom control, emotional support and spiritual care through the course of an illness. Palliative care can begin as early as diagnosis and continue throughout a treatment process. Hospice care begins after the decision has been made to cease any curative treatment.
I want people to understand that choosing to partner with hospice on a journey of illness is not “giving up”,” but rather, choosing not to go it alone. There are great benefits that come to a patient, as well as loved ones and caregivers, in inviting a highly skilled and committed team of medical and clinical directors, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains and bereavement specialists to help navigate the often difficult and complicated journey toward the end of life.
Five years ago, after my younger sister suffered a devastating stroke and fought nine months for life, I chose to partner with a hospice team for her. Today, my only regret is that I waited too long.
I know I’m not alone. Many families are apprehensive about accepting the need for hospice, and therefore miss out on the many benefits the service offers. Once I asked, I was glad I did. The hospice care team provided my sister with the best medical care— dignified, personalized, compassionate—while also supporting me and her three young children emotionally and spiritually. Their care allowed us to focus on living fully in the time we had together.
That experience changed my life. As a result, I’m a hospice worker today, firmly committed to fostering conversations about end-of-life care. It’s deeply satisfying to return that favor, and support patients and families on their own similar journeys.
Amy Roth Sandrolini is a Community Relations Representative with Colorado Palliative & Hospice Care, which offers in-home hospice and palliative care in 12 counties across Colorado. To contact her, call 719-419-5595.