Serving Those Who Served

Recently, NHPCO published its annual 2010 Facts & Figures in Hospice report. The report is a treasure trove of information about hospice usage. One of the big facts we like to highlight from the report is that almost 85% of hospice use is paid for by Medicare. Because federal funding of healthcare, including hospice, is always under budgetary pressure, we need to advocate for adequate funding for the Medicare Hospice Benefit. But this week we’d like to shift gears and examine a different part of the hospice-government relationship: hospice’s role in serving those who served us.

The Hospice Action Network is a community of people who have rallied together around the idea that everyone deserves to face the end of life with dignity and comfort. If you listen to the media, it can be easy to believe that our freedoms are constantly at stake, and I know you cringe every time a false statement is made about ‘death panels’. However inflammatory these statements may be, I take comfort that while the level of discourse may not be what we’d hoped at times, there is at least a discourse to be had.

The freedom to debate complex ideas like the role of hospice in health care is considered so fundamental a right in this country, we often take it for granted. That someone fought long and hard for the liberties I enjoy on a daily basis warrants reflection from time to time. I believe that the people who have served this country deserve our respect and honor for the sacrifices they have made. Because of the dedication of those men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Hospice Action Network has the ability to advocate for better end-of-life care for all Americans- including Veterans.

Today is Veterans’ Day. You may not know this, but 25 percent of the people who die in America every day are veterans. Over 1,800 men and women that served our country will pass away today. I believe that they have the right to as much comfort and peace as they desire when facing a terminal illness. I also believe that the hospice community has a responsibility to provide the specialized care that Veterans require at the end of life. We have a duty to serve those who served us.

If you consider yourself a Hospice Advocate, I encourage you to find out more about the special services that help U.S. Veterans at the end of life. I know that I am able to advocate for hospice care for all Americans only because of the sacrifices of these few. NHPCO has started a new program this year, in conjunction with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs- We Honor Veterans. Check out their website for more information about how you and your hospice program can help.