Hospice marks 20th year here

Mary Gooding, Daily Journal

November 17, 2002

In just three decades, hospice has quietly revolutionized the way people die in America by honoring wishes and bringing peace, dignity, and comfort to millions of patients and families. Hospice of Kankakee Valley has been a part of this health care revolution by providing end-of-life care to local residents for 20 years.
November 2002 is National Hospice Month, when hospices raise awareness and recognize the contributions of professionals and volunteers who provide hospice care. This year, National Hospice Month is even more significant because it marks a milestone in American health care: The 20th anniversary of the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

The hospice approach and philosophy took hold in the 1970s, and with the establishment of a hospice benefit under Medicare in 1982, quality end-of-life care soon became increasingly accessible for a rapidly growing number of patients and families in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1975 hospice programs served fewer than 6,000 patients a year. Now, there are approximately 3,200 hospice locations nationally, serving an estimated 775,000 patients and families each year, and less than 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries live in areas without access to a hospice program.

Hospice goes to the patient, treats pain and symptoms with aggressive medical care and eases the emotional and spiritual suffering of patients and families. A team of medical experts, professionals, and members of the community makes this care possible -- doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, trained volunteers, and bereavement counselors. Under Medicare, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations, hospice care is available to beneficiaries and their families at little or no cost. In addition, through community contributions, memorial donations, and foundation gifts, many hospices are able to provide patients who lack sufficient payment with free services.

This year, a survey conducted for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization found that only 15 percent of Americans know that Medicare is the primary source of coverage for hospice care. Only two out of five believe that most specialized end-of-life care is paid for by health insurance.

At the same time, those polled noted the importance of information and guidance from end-of-life care experts for patients diagnosed with life-limiting conditions. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans (88 percent) believe that patients with a life-limiting diagnosis would benefit from a consultation with end-of-life specialists.

Locally for 20 years, Hospice of Kankakee Valley has provided area residents with valuable information and guidance in end-of-life care, as well as aggressive symptom management and pain control, and emotional, caregiving and financial support to families. For more information or answers to questions, call 939-4141.







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