The boomers are coming—granted, not for as many as 10 to 20 years, but the hospice industry is gearing up nonetheless to prepare for an expanded rise in demand for its end-of-life services, including care that can be given wherever seniors are.
While many picture hospice workers as sitting next to a hospital bed in a dimly-lit room, writes the Associated Press, it’s actually much more than that, through a kind of “hospice on the go” approach that can be delivered anywhere from the golf course to the casino.
As they brace for the eventual needs of the aging baby boom generation, hospice providers are working to diversify their services and dispel misconceptions about what they do.
Chief among those myths is the notion that hospice consists of friendly visitors who sit in a darkened room and hold Grandma’s hand while she dies, says Robin Stawasz, family services director at Southern Tier Hospice and Palliative Care in upstate New York.
“It’s just not what we do. We come in and help people go golfing or go snowbird down to Florida, or go out to dinner several nights a week. We help them get to the casinos on weekends,” she said. “This is not getting ready to die. This is living — living now, living tomorrow, making the best possible life with what you have.”
For the vast majority of patients, hospice means periodic visits at home from a team of hospice workers. A much smaller percentage receives continuous nursing care at home or inpatient care at a hospice house.
In the meantime, hospice programs are growing in number and scope. Recognizing that people are living longer and with complex illnesses, they’ve been branching out into other “pre-hospice” areas for patients who are not terminally ill. For example, some centers have become certified as so-called PACE providers, an acronym that stands for “program of all-inclusive care for the elderly.”
Another trend is focusing on patients with specific diagnoses. While hospices for decades overwhelmingly cared for people with cancer, by 2010, cancer diagnoses had dropped to 36 percent of patients served, prompting some centers to develop programs geared toward heart disease, dementia and other diagnoses.
The hospice industry—and American society as a whole—are far from ready for the aging boomer population, according to one expert on end-of-life issues who says that caring for people toward the end of their lives must become a much larger part of the national agenda to ward off a “flood of unmet needs.”
Read the full Associated Press piece here.
Written by Alyssa Gerace