By KIM VAN OOSTEN
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. CHA and the Supportive Care Coalition have partnered to create several free resources that CHA members and others can use to help raise awareness of the essential role hospice and palliative care play in the delivery of wholistic, compassionate care.
CHA and the Supportive Care Coalition are encouraging the public to learn more about the benefits of palliative care in relieving the pain and suffering that can be associated with chronic, life-limiting conditions, and about the role of hospice care at the end of life. The initiative will underscore the need for greater awareness of, and access to, palliative care and hospice services in the United States.
Resource placards created for this initiative include:
- A reflection on palliative care.
- Papal quotes and social teachings that frame palliative care in the context of Catholic moral tradition.
- A side-by-side comparison that differentiates palliative and hospice care.
- Social media postings and banners that can give a unified look to postings during November.
CHA brochures written for patients and their families include:
- "Advance Directives: Expressing Your Health Care Wishes," which answers frequently asked questions about advance directives including how to designate a health care proxy to make sure that one's wishes are honored in the end stage of an illness.
- "Caring Even When We Cannot Cure" explains the differences between palliative and hospice care.
- "Caring for People at the End of Life" sets out Catholic Church teaching about end-of-life decisions.
CHA and the Supportive Care Coalition are offering free resources including this placard to raise awareness of the essential role of palliative and hospice care in the continuum of compassionate patient care.
"Patients diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer, often face daunting treatment options. And while modern medicine is helping prolong life, surgeries and drugs are only part of the healing process," said Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of CHA. "Often as our patients' physical condition becomes the primary focus, the care for their emotional and spiritual well-being is shortchanged or overlooked. Palliative and hospice care address the needs of the whole person, which is the foundation of Catholic health care."
The initiative also is focused on ensuring that the public and those who work in Catholic health care understand that palliative care has deep roots in the Catholic moral tradition.
In his "Address to Participants in the Plenary of The Pontifical Academy for Life," in March 2015, Pope Francis said: "Palliative care is an expression of the truly human attitude of taking care of one another, especially of those who suffer. It is a testimony that the human person is always precious, even if marked by illness and old age. Indeed, the person, under any circumstances, is an asset to him/herself and to others and is loved by God. This is why, when their life becomes very fragile and the end of their earthly existence approaches, we feel the responsibility to assist and accompany them in the best way."
Denise Hess, executive director of the Supportive Care Coalition, said that multiple studies have documented that palliative care improves a person's quality of life and can even prolong life for some patients, while also lowering overall health care costs as people receive medical care that aligns with their values and goals. Yet, this care is often not readily available, and when available, is still offered too infrequently.
"We have a long way to go in making 'what matters to you' a more important question than 'what's the matter with you,'" said Hess.
All of the resources as part of this initiative, as well as a new podcast on palliative care and many other items, are available at chausa.org/palliativecare.
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