Good soundbites do not equal good, sound decisions. As an apolitical entity, Hospice of the North Coast (HNC) is not on the “side” of any party; rather, it is on the side of terminally ill clients and their families.
The term death panel was coined to describe in frightening terms a false rumor that under a healthcare reform provision, bureaucrats would have life-or-death powers as they subjectively decided whether a person was deemed sufficiently productive to be worthy of health care. In actuality, the provision would reimburse physicians for counseling Medicare patients about living wills, advance directives and end-of-life care options.
This is a good thing! Think about it: We carry an umbrella in case of rain. We keep a flashlight on hand in case the power goes out. Yet while we conscientiously prepare for contingencies, most of us neglect to plan for life’s biggest certainty: death.
Fewer than 50% of adults have legal documents such as advance directives or living wills that delineate how far medical providers should go to keep them alive artificially. Even if they do, these documents are not always honored. This can have severe repercussions in terms of quality of life for the terminal patient, and angry arguments and financial burdens for the family. One of our board members confided to me that a primary catalyst for joining HNC was witnessing the devastating result in his own circle where denial of impending death led literally to a bitter end.
As a nonprofit hospice, our goal is to offer compassionate care that maintains a patient’s dignity and comfort while helping the family navigate the mosaic of healthcare choices. We encourage families to develop an Advanced Care Plan that includes communicating one’s wishes and designating a surrogate who can advocate and make decisions, when necessary.
People with declining chronic illnesses should speak frankly with their doctor about the comprehensive Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) paradigm. A POLST document is a legally binding “promise” by the physician to honor the patient’s specific end-of-life medical treatment wishes, as discussed in detail between the patient and physician. Once signed by the physician, POLST travels with the patient, ensuring that a seriously ill person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments are known, communicated and honored in all healthcare settings.
Every November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. I strongly encourage adults, no matter what their age or health status, to get informed and be pragmatic. Please call us at 760-431-4100 or stop by our Carlsbad office at 2525 Pio Pico Drive, Suite 301 to pick up a POLST and other forms.
It sounds counterintuitive, but hospice is not about dying; it’s about living as well and fully as you can for as long as you can. Having your wishes legally documented in advance means you will achieve what all of us want at the end of life: to make a graceful exit.
Now you know my point of view. What’s yours?
Nerice Kaufman, Executive Director
For 31 years now Light Up A Life (LUAL) has been Hospice of the North Coast’s annual candle-lighting memorial – a meaningful way for families served by our hospice and the community to remember and celebrate loved ones that are no longer with us. LUAL is an event put on by the Hope Bereavement Center of Hospice of the North Coast, now headed by Ti Johnson, Director of Bereavement.
For the past two years we have held LUAL at the Oceanside Museum of Art (www.oma-online.org). Sunday, December 4 was a beautiful sunny day in Oceanside and roughly 100 people filled the Gleason Auditorium of the OMA to remember their loved ones. I opened the event singing “Wind Beneath My Wings”, following by the inspiring talk given by Sy Brenner, World War II prisoner of war survivor (www.sybrenner.com. This nearly 90 year old war hero shared from his experiences and left everyone feeling as though they too, could find humor in the face of adversity.
Following Sy Brenner’s spirited talk, everyone was given the opportunity to remember their loved one by lighting a candle in their honor. This part of the program is always a time of remembering and reflecting on the love we shared, the times we laughed and cried with those who are now deceased. Although they are absent in the physical, their spirit remains ever present in our lives.
Below are a few pictures from this event. We welcome everyone to join us each year, the first Sunday in December to Light Up A Life in honor of your loved one.
SAVE THE DATE: Light Up A Life 2012 will be Sunday, December 2, 2012. This is a free event and is open to the public!
HNC has served so many veterans over the years, they hold a very special place in our hearts.Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew us into World War II in the Pacific. I joined San Luis Rey Rotary at a wonderful commemorative event at El Camino HS in Oceanside. This is the 16th year that veterans of all branches of the service gathered to remember, then dispersed to classrooms to speak with the students. ECHS marching band and 2 vocal groups sang for us and it was a moving experience! We were reminded by one of the speakers from the First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton that “The real heroes are ordinary people living right here among us”. So true!
One of HNC’s longest-tenured patient care volunteers is among the youngest. Beginning in his mid-20s in the early 1990s, Dan Del Fiorentino has offered empathetic companionship and respite services to nearly 40 clients. This is his story.
“Being on the HNC team makes me feel a part of something. I have held a patient’s hand for two hours. Enabled weary caregivers to run errands, take a walk or simply lie down and rest. Helped an elderly man see himself for a few minutes as a youth in his snazzy Studebaker, not as a dying person.”
“Knowing I have made a difference is my reward. Above that, I have learned so much about my clients, life and myself.”
“My first patient was a crusty old Navy man. He didn’t want his disease and he didn’t want me. He had to accept the medical providers, but he refused to allow me in his room, so I sat outside where he could see me. I came back; same story. Next time I came, he let me sit in the room. When I came back again, he drew me closer; after that, he asked me questions and we began to talk. With grudging admiration, he said, ‘You keep coming back.’”
“He knew his doctor was there because he had to be, but I was there because I wanted to be. To him and to all of our HNC clients, a volunteer represents someone who truly cares.”
”That’s why I keep coming back.”
Hospice of the North Coast (HNC) is a community based non-profit organization in Carlsbad, CA. We have been providing quality end of life care to patients in the North San Diego Coastal community for more than three decades. This month we celebrate 31 years in the business of helping people experience a peaceful death. We understand death is a part of the life cycle. We help families and those that are part of the patient’s journey on hospice adjust to life after their death.
HNC understands “hospice” can be a challenging subject to broach. It is however a necessary topic to discuss when a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Many patients and families shy away from hospice care assuming it means giving up or letting go. Actually, the sooner a patient comes onto hospice, the sooner our team of professional experts is able to work to stabilize them. We help manage pain systems and get them under control, resulting in patient’s increased quality of life.
A couple of well known studies have been released indicating that palliative and hospice care helps some patients live longer, even better lives than without it. A study, released by the New England Journal of Medicine, determined in its research that patients on hospice and palliative care lived longer than those who received standard physician care.
Hospice of the North Coast is committed to assisting patients and their families navigate the ever-changing mosaic of healthcare choices. We also have a premier bereavement support program that offers groups to children, teens and adults, as well as individualized counseling. For those who are not ready to come onto hospice, we also offer clinical education to patients and families desiring information to support their choice in the future.
We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 760.431.4100. Let us help you!
Comments and stories welcome…
New Blog….new Hospice home! Hope all of you will come to our Ribbon Cutting and Open House this Thursday the 24th 4pm. Check out our website(www.hospicenorthcoast.org) for details! It has been a huge lift to move into our beautiful permanent home and as I sit looking out of our newly washed windows it really hit me that our work environment makes a difference. Our staff now has a comforting and comfortable place to be!