Meeting the Needs of our Nation’s Heroes at the End of Life

Over 4,500 hospice organizations and community partners provide Veteran-centric care to our nation’s heroes.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the We Honor Veterans program join the nation in honoring and celebrating our Veterans this Veterans Day. Veterans with serious illness have unique needs at the end of the life. There are over 4,500 We Honor Veterans partner programs across the nation, committed to providing Veterans with the Veteran- centric care and resources they deserve. We Honor Veterans partners address both physical and emotional needs, including the psychological toll of war and how it impacts the end-of-life journey.

“We honor  and thank America’s Veterans and the over 4,500 We Honor Veterans partners that have made a commitment to provide quality Veteran-centric care to our nation’s heroes living with  serious illness,” says NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “Now entering its eighth year, We Honor Veterans continues to grow amongst hospice programs, community-based healthcare partners, and non-hospice community partners.”

NHPCO, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, created the We Honor Veterans program to empower hospice and other non-hospice community partners across America to meet the unique needs of seriously ill Veterans and their families.  Partners engage in activities including utilizing a military history checklist at admission, pinning ceremonies and certificate presentations, as well as outreach to other community organizations.   We Honor Veterans partners in partnership with VA staff, learn how to accompany and guide Veterans through their end-of-life journey toward a more peaceful ending.

In 2017, over 27,000 hospice staff (some duplicate) participated in We Honor Veterans training programs across the country. Hospices reported that they reached over 26,000 participants in community outreach at venues which include but are not limited to churches, homeless shelters, and assisted living facilities.

There are four levels of distinction that partner programs can earn based on their involvement with Veteran education and interaction with the Veterans and family members they are caring for. The goal of these levels is to ensure the very best care is being provided to those who have served our nation.

As we celebrate our nation’s heroes this Veterans Day – and every day of the year – we must not forget that it is never too late to give them a hero’s welcome home..

Learn more at www.WeHonorVeterans.org.

NHPCO Proclamation for National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization issues this proclamation in recognition of the important outreach and awareness ongoing throughout November 2017.

Proclamation

WHEREAS, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, widely recognized as the first modern day hospice organization, and the 35th anniversary of the Medicare hospice benefit in the United Sates;

WHEREAS, more than 1.5 million Americans living with life-limiting illness, and their families, receive care annually from the nation’s hospice programs in communities throughout the United States;

WHEREAS, greater awareness to increase more timely access to hospice care is needed given that nearly 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries received care for seven days or less*, considered too short a time to fully benefit from the range of services that hospice offers;

WHEREAS,  hospice and palliative care offer those they serve the high-quality of care delivered by an interdisciplinary team of skilled professionals and trained volunteers that includes physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, counselors, health aides, spiritual care providers and more;

WHEREAS, the hospice and palliative care philosophy places the needs of the individual at the center of care allowing patients and family caregivers to focus on quality of life, surrounded and supported by family and loved ones, despite serious and life-limiting illness;

WHEREAS, each year, hospice saves Medicare more than $2 billion by providing solutions for physicians, care to patients and comfort to families;

WHEREAS, a growing body of peer-reviewed research indicates that timely access to hospice and palliative care can decrease hospitalizations and Emergency Room visits and increase quality of life for patients and family caregivers;

WHEREAS, hospice and palliative care organizations are advocates and educators about advance care planning that help individuals make decisions about the healthcare they would want to receive should they have a serious or life-limiting illness or if they were unable to speak for themselves;

WHEREAS, hospice and palliative care providers encourage all people to learn more about options of care and to share their wishes with family, loved ones, and their healthcare professionals;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Board of Directors of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, do hereby proclaim November 2017 as National Hospice and  Palliative Care Month and encourage the public to increase their understanding and awareness of care at the end of life and to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs.

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NHPCO offers resources to help promote National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.

* NHPCO’s report, Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America, 2016 edition.

Tips for Choosing a Quality Hospice

When a loved one is diagnosed with a serious or life-limiting illness, the questions facing an individual or a family can be overwhelming. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization recommends that people learn more about hospice as an important option before they are faced with a medical crisis.

A free worksheet from NHPCO, “Choosing a Quality Hospice for You or a Loved One,” will help patients and families with some of the important questions they should consider when learning about or choosing a hospice.

Some of the questions important in choosing a quality hospice include:

  1. Is the hospice Medicare certified?
  2. When was the last state or federal survey of the program?
  3. Is the hospice accredited by a national organization?
  4. What services should you expect from the hospice based on your circumstances?
  5. How are services provided after hours?
  6. How and where does hospice provide short-term inpatient care?
  7. What services do volunteers offer?
  8. How long does it typically take the hospice to enroll someone once the request for services is made?

“Choosing a hospice to care for yourself or a loved one might seem overwhelming, that’s why it’s important to look into options before you’re facing a medical crisis,” said Edo Banach NHPCO president and CEO.  “Ask about the services and support that you can expect based on your specific medical condition to find the community provider best equipped to meet your needs.”

The family doctor, attending physician, other healthcare provider, or even family friends that have taken advantage of hospice services in the past would be another source of recommendations for a provider in your area.

Another common question is when is it best to begin hospice care. Every patient and family must decide that based upon their unique needs, however, professionals encourage people to learn about care options long before they think they may need them. And hospice should not be thought of as “brink of death” care.  Hospice is best provided in the final months of life and not the final days.

Visit NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org to learn more about hospice care or to find a hospice organization in your area.

NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org offers a wealth of information to help people learn more about hospice or to find a provider in the community. And the website MomentsofLife.org offers videos, stories and information about all that hospice can do to help patients and families make more meaningful moments possible.

Responding to “No One is Coming” TIME Article

“Most families are happy with their experience, according to the CAHPS survey. In data collected from 2015 to 2016 from 2,128 hospices, 80% of respondents rated hospice a 9 or 10 out of 10.”

– Direct quote from the TIME article

I am sure that many of you have seen the article, “‘No One is Coming:’ Investigation Reveals Hospices Abandon Patients at Death’s Door,” published earlier today by TIME and written by journalists from Kaiser Health News. The article paints an unflattering picture of hospice by highlighting outlier examples of neglect and questioning the care hospice provides at critical times for patients and family caregivers.

First, let me be perfectly clear, poor care is not acceptable and NHPCO will not defend substandard hospice care. Hospices have a sacred obligation to serve patients throughout their end-of-life journey and are legally and morally required to serve their patients whenever and wherever needed. Those that are unable or unwilling to meet the standard of care that hospice represents should not be in business.

I do want to commend the overwhelming majority of hospice providers in the U.S. who not only meet but exceed the high standards of care for hospice patients. They understand and will agree that hospice organizations must be committed to providing the highest quality of care; they must strive to overcome challenges and difficulties they will inevitably face.

Over the past several months, I have traveled across the country and have been inspired by the level of excellence, dedication, and compassion I have seen from the wide range of hospice organizations that live up to the hospice philosophy of care. For the work that each one of you does, at bedsides every single day, let me offer my deep appreciation.

It is hard to read such negative examples of hospice care as those shared in the TIME article, but please allow me to offer some observations:

  • Despite the mostly negative anecdotes shared, the writers of the article report that 89 percent of people were satisfied with hospice – this statistic is from a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation for this article.
  • The authors cite 3,200 complaints filed with state officials in the past five years.  During that period, hospices cared for an estimated 9.4 million patients. Certainly, no bad experience is acceptable, but we should not forget the millions of those who were served well – and the many millions of family caregivers who deeply appreciate the compassion and care they received.
  • Again, there is no excuse for failure to uphold the high standards of hospice care, but while the article points to disturbing incidents in Alaska and “Appalachia” the authors miss an opportunity to talk about access to quality care issues that are a challenge for many patients and health care providers, especially those in rural communities, which are not unique to hospice.
  • In the five-year period that the article spans, NHPCO has done much to lead efforts that have brought support and welcomed oversight to the field. One example is the IMPACT Act of 2015 that establishes hospice surveys every three years. The hospice community has championed appropriate oversight for many years – what other health care sector has done the same?
  • Hospices are continually looking at care delivery and striving toward the goal of continual improvement. This is due, in part, to the federal regulation requiring Medicare-certified hospices to have established Quality Assessment Performance Improvement programs in place.
  • NHPCO continues to advocate for policy to address rural, workforce and quality issues through new legislation.
  • The stories chosen were selected by the authors to cast a shadow over the entire field and push a false conclusion that growth of hospice equates with a lowering of standards. This is not accurate. We know that the care described in the TIME article is not reflective of the work going on every day in this country.

We as a community face enough challenges from external forces and it is disheartening to think that some bad actors are bringing our excellence and dedication of our community into question. As providers caring for patients and families at one of life’s most challenging times, we must always work to go beyond basic standards of compliance and work to reach a level of performance within our organizations that is exemplary among healthcare providers.

NHPCO makes resources and education available to help deliver the highest-quality care.  This is integral to our mission. I hope that every hospice provider striving for excellence will consider their active participation and membership with NHPCO as integral to their operations. Hospices not striving for excellence should not be caring for patients.

Similarly, we offer a wealth of resources on our website NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org to help the public understand what hospice is and what they should expect. And our website MomentsofLife.org offers videos, stories and information about all that hospice can do to help patients and families. Our worksheet, “Choosing a Quality Hospice for You or Your Loved One” (PDF) can be a valuable resource. Please feel free to share these resources in your community.

I hope that providers don’t overlook the hundreds of positive articles that are published across the country every day that demonstrate the many positive things hospice provides to the people and communities they serve.

Thank you for your commitment and passion on behalf of those we care for.  I’m proud to be working on your behalf.

Edo
Edo Banach, JD
President and CEO

Rural Access Update!

We are happy to announce several new cosponsors to the Rural Access to Hospice Act! Thank you to the many Advocates whose outreach made this possible!

New Senators:

Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

New Representatives:

Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Tom Reed (R-NY)

 

If your Senators or Representatives are still not on board, please visit our Rural Action Center and let them know their support is still important to you! Even if you have already reached out, a reminder is always good. And maybe you could share the Rural Action Center with your friends and coworkers and encourage them to reach out, too!