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Healthcare Decisions

Holiday visits may reveal a loved one’s health issues.

The holidays are a time when we see family and friends we may not have seen since the last holiday season. While it is a time of celebration and gathering, it is also a time when we may find that the health of our loved ones has declined. Many are apprehensive about having a talk about aging and the loss of abilities. Facing our own mortality, or that of a loved-one is something many would prefer to avoid and most will side-step a conversation about making healthcare choices, specifically about end of life.

Are the holidays the time to have this discussion? Perhaps not, but it may be the time to inquire about what to do if additional care is needed. Creating a living will (also known as Advanced Directive) relieves the family of the emotional liability of guessing on final wishes when a loved-one is unable to express their desires.

As you put together an Advanced Directive it is also a good time to discuss hospice and palliative care with your family. Hospice services provide medical, spiritual, emotional, physical, and social services support for patients diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or injury, and when treatment will not result in a cure.Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances.

“We encourage people to become well-informed of hospice options,” said April Gall, RN, director of admissions at Angelic Health. “While it may be difficult, the conversation about hospice care should start long before it is needed. Having a plan for care in the event of a life-altering diagnosis will reduce the stress of investigating options when the patient or family is least prepared to cope.”

Even some healthcare providers are reluctant to bring up hospice care as an option because they do not want their patient to feel as though they have given up on their patient, explained Angelic Hospice Medical Director Michael Sperling, MD, an internist in Galloway Township. “Many times, physicians will wait for the patient or family to ask about hospice. But the earlier this discussion happens the better it is for all. It is perfectly okay for the patient or caregiver to ask the physician if hospice is an option.”

If you are considering hospice care and plan to initiate this conversation with a parent, spouse or other loved-one, see box at right for some questions to guide you regarding the hospice care option.

There are many myths that can be a deterrent for seeking care for a terminal or life-altering condition; the main one is that it is giving up hope for life. In fact, studies have shown that patients receiving palliative care, when started early in the diagnosis have an improved quality of life and are better able to enjoy time with family and friends than those not receiving care. Studies show that they also live on average one month longer than those not receiving hospice care.

Call Angelic Health at 609-822-7979 to talk with staff, or visit