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Joan E. Dowlin

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Hospice Shows How Socialized Medicine Can Work

Posted: 03/30/2012 6:04 pm

My dad recently died of lung cancer at home. He was 91 and I was his primary caretaker. I don't think I could have handled his end of life process without hospice care. Even though other family members (my sister and cousin and brother with his wife and sons) and friends were there for him and me, it would have been an impossible task without hospice.

Hospice brought the comfort of knowing my dad would have a hospital bed, oxygen, medication including morphine, a daily aide who bathed him in bed and changed his sheets, and a twice a week visit by a nurse who was on-call at all times.

They provided a social worker and chaplain to not only console him but we caretakers as well. In essence, they were a Godsend to a family in need. These angels reaffirmed my faith in the human race.

And the beauty of it all is that it was paid for by my dad's Medicare. That took a huge financial burden off of the family and allowed us to focus on making his last days comfortable.

As the health care debate again rages in D.C. with the Supreme Court taking on Obamacare, I can't help but wonder if these same folks that scream about keeping the government out of medicine would refuse hospice care for any of their family members.

This is not my first experience of hospice. My mom passed in 2006 of Alzheimer's disease and she was under hospice care for two years. This was a great support for my father who was her primary caregiver. My sister died in 2007 of breast cancer and she and her partner benefited greatly from the nurturing experience of hospice.

I don't know if it is because a certain quality of professional nurses, aides, social workers, and chaplains are drawn to the field, but my observation has been that these people create a compassionate and empathetic environment that eases the pain of losing a loved one.

If only all of our health care system could work this way. If we used such a caring, empathetic, comforting approach to all patients no matter if they were dying or not and if we brought such passion to preventive medicine maybe we could find a system that works for all. No matter what happens to Obamacare, I hope we recognize the benefits that hospice has created through Medicare and I for one will be eternally grateful for that precious support and care at a time of great need.