Arm Yourself to be a Better Hospice Advocate: Know the Facts!

From last week to this, there’s been lots of media coverage surrounding a new report released from the Dartmouth Atlas Project that shows that individuals in some areas of the country are far less likely to receive comfort care in accordance with their wishes. My colleagues and I are always saying that to be an effective Hospice Advocate, you have to be an informed advocate. So I thought we, as Hospice Advocates, should all be familiar with this new report and the media coverage surrounding it. This and other recently released research and findings will go a long way to highlight the value of quality end-of-life care in our communities, and by extension the value in our Hospice Advocacy efforts.

Last week, The NHPCO Updater – our parent organization’s blog — reported that the recently released report is the “first-ever report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project on cancer care at the end of life, [and] found that across the US, about 29 percent of patients with advanced cancer died in a hospital between 2003 and 2007. And in 50 academic medical centers, fewer than half of these patients received hospice care.” Clearly this is an issue that is deserving of our attention and an opportunity to advocate on behalf of hospice in our communities. To get varying perspectives on the report from end-of-life care experts and insiders, including NHPCO’s president and CEO Don Schumacher, I recommend reading some of the recently published articles about it. Here are links to a few of those:

There have been several studies/reports published in the past six months that highlight the value of quality end-of-life care. These studies can help us make our case for expanded access to quality end-of-life care. Here are a list of and a few highlights from the studies published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology and the New England Journal of Medicine that will help you while you work to recruit new Hospice Advocates:
1. New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), released on August 19, 2010, highlighted the fact that among certain cancer patients, those who received palliative care lived almost two months longer on average than those who received standard care. It also highlighted that patients receiving palliative care reported a higher quality of life through the final course of their illness. These findings are supported by earlier studies done by the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management in 2004 and 2007 (See the NHPCO press release).
NHPCO’s press release from August 19th as well as the study abstract on NEJM’s website are available for your review online.

2. Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) study first released on September 13, 2010 was about the probability that dying at home may be less traumatic for patients and their family caregivers. It stressed that:
• Among patients who died in the hospital, the quality of their life at the end was rated as lower with more physical and emotional stress;
• For caregivers, those whose loved ones did not die at home faced greater risk of psychological problems within six months of death;
• Caregivers were five times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder.
The JCO website abstract is available for extensive details of the study.

3. JCO study led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine and that was released on October 1, 2010 is about cancer patients who disenroll from hospice, and ultimately experience difficulty at the end of life. This study stresses that cancer patients who disenroll from hospice generally:
• Have Increased hospitalization;
• Are less likely to die at home;
• Use five times more Medicare expenditures than their counterparts who die at home.
Click here for NHPCO’s press release as well as the study abstract on JCO’s website are available for your review online.

Arm yourself to be a better advocate, research and read up on these studies so that you can use the facts to support your local Hospice Advocacy efforts. If you have questions, comments or concerns, share them with me and the rest of the HAN team below. We’re here to help you help hospice!