November National Hospice and Palliative Care Month Sparks Opportunity to Dispel Myths About End of Life Care

It’s Not About Giving Up – It’s About Making the Most of the Time You Have Left

Arthurdale, WV  –  November 13, 2017 –    Americans are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Yet inevitably – 100% of us will die, and the clear majority will experience debilitating advanced illness for which curative treatment is no longer effective.

Malene Davis, MBA, MSN, RN, President and CEO of West Virginia Caring and Capital Caring and a nationally recognized health care authority on advanced illness, wants to dispel perceptions that hospice and palliative care is only meant for the final few days of life.

“Sadly, most Americans receive too little care, too late to make a difference in their quality of life during their final days,” said Davis.  “The best results occur when the patient receives hospice care for three to six months before they pass on.  Most patients receive only 17 days of hospice care on average.”

Davis cited a well-known study comparing hospice with non-hospice patients from the Medicare data set.  They found for certain diagnoses including congestive heart failure, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer, life expectancy is longer for those receiving hospice care compared to patients who did not receive hospice care.  The study, published in the Journal of Pain and Management, found on average the hospice patients lived one month longer than those who did not receive hospice care.

“First and foremost, hospice is not a place where one goes to die,” explained Davis. “Hospice is about living your remaining days with an advanced illness as fully as possible, with less pain, more comfort and surrounded by loved ones, “she continued.

Hospice care is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans and HMOs. Surprisingly, only 10% of hospice-eligible patients are using this concierge service.  Despite the low figures, research shows that hospice usage in the U.S. is growing. Every year, between 1.4 and 1.5 million Americans are cared for by a hospice provider for at least one day.  However, probably close to 17 million patients are eligible for the service, but are not using it.

According to Davis, “most doctors do not have end-of-life conversations with their patients or families, even when they know the patient is dying and medical therapies are no longer working.  More often, when those conversations do occur, they wait longer than necessary to talk with families about quality of life options for managing the end of life.”   She continued, “Earlier use of hospice equates to demonstrably superior end-of-life experiences for patients and their families.”

Hospice benefits provide for up to six months of coverage for eligible patients however the average duration for patients under hospice care is approximately two weeks.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.  West Virginia Caring is committed to educating consumers about life-enhancing health services.

About West Virginia Caring: West Virginia Caring, a 501 (c) (3), non-profit organization, is dedicated to serving terminally ill individuals and their families transitioning through life-limiting illness while providing outreach, education and expertise in grief support to the entire community.  West Virginia Caring was founded in 1983 and serves 12 counties in West Virginia. For more information, please visit www.wvcaring.org or call 800-350-1161.

 

About Malene Davis –President and CEO Malene Davis is a nurse with more than three decades of experience in hospice care.  She has received numerous awards for her advocacy work and educational initiatives.  She is a prominent national speaker and author.  She completed her BSN nursing degree, and holds dual Masters Degrees in Business Administration (MBA) and Nursing (MSN) from West Virginia University.  Since her graduation, she has remained highly involved in West Virginia University serving on the School of Nursing Visiting Committee, the School of Public Health Visiting Committee, and the Chair of West Virginia University Alumni Association Board of Directors. She also serves on the Women of West Virginia Leadership Council and on the Board of the National Partnership Hospice Innovations.

She and her husband Bob split their time between homes in historic Arthurdale, WV and Arlington, VA and remain committed to their mission of “Simply Improving Care for West Virginians”.