"I remember so vividly my father collapsing at his retirement party in front of our family and his coworkers," said Nancy Hovde, HopeWest development officer. "We called an ambulance to pick him up, not knowing he was even ill."
Soon after an ER visit, Hovde and her family learned her father had an estimated three to six months to live. The family was devastated, undergoing a swirl of emotion. However, when Hovde's father enrolled in hospice care, Hovde recalls the family's reality immediately becoming more bearable.
"Hospice care offered support earlier in the progression of my father's illness rather than waiting until death was imminent," said Hovde. "My hope is that every family facing similar situations will use these services and understand that enrolling in hospice doesn't mean you're giving up. For my dad, it was choosing to live his last months the best they could be."
Scenarios like Hovde's play out hundreds of times across the nation every day.
Among the more than 1.3 million Americans who received hospice services, 28 percent were in hospice for less than seven days according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's Facts and Figures 2016 Edition, when the Medicare benefit allows up to 180 days of hospice care. The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management also reports that patients who received hospice services lived on average, 29 days longer than those who did not receive hospice care.
So, why do patients wait so long to enroll in hospice care? Is it the fear of giving up or a misconception that hospice is a last resort when nothing else can be done?
"Wishing a loved one was enrolled in hospice sooner is one of the biggest regrets our patients and families face," said Dorothy Pew, HopeWest program director. "We want families to know that hospice isn't just about dying peacefully, but rather living in comfort."
Medicare and other insurance providers typically cover hospice care in full for up to six months and may cover an extended period if physicians re-evaluate patients and determine they are still appropriate for hospice. If a patient enrolls in hospice, HopeWest will support caregivers, work directly with the patient's physician to coordinate care, help families focus on what's important and worry less about the details, plus so much more. If a patient is not eligible for hospice, HopeWest's palliative care program is an alternative for patients who may need that same level of support and care.
"We hope that you look to HopeWest as a resource," said Pew. "We understand that illness and even aging can be a complicated time. Our teams are committed to finding the best care options and solutions for you or your loved ones."
For more information about how HopeWest's hospice, palliative care or grief support can help you or your family, visit HopeWestCO.org or call 970-874-6823.