Sharing Personal Stories Can Help Increase Awareness About Hospice
By Lisa Pahl, LCSW
My mother-in-law Kay died in 2020, three months after a Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis.
Less than a month before her death, she decided to host an impromptu social distanced outdoor neighborhood gathering. I was surprised by this news, but sprung into action to make it happen.
At the gathering, Kay shared how grateful she is to have chosen hospice. She educated this older adult community on hospice services and how hospice has kept her symptoms managed and living a good quality of life.
This is one way that I see people being more aware of hospice and palliative care; through their peers.
When the oncologist informed Kay of the extent of her cancer, she reports that he said “I can call in hospice now or you can start treatment.” She left the office not knowing anything about what hospice would look like and not feeling well informed to make a decision quickly.
Luckily, I was able to fill in the gaps and help her know what to expect. But, most people do not a family member that works in hospice.
We need our physicians and medical professionals as whole to do better. Professionals need to know enough about hospice to talk about it with your patients, be willing to have difficult conversations, and bring up hospice before your patients have less than a couple weeks to live.
When time and time again, a person comes home on hospice and only lives a week or two, it reinforces this stereotype that hospice is only for people that have weeks to live. In actually, people live longer with better quality of life if they start hospice early and experience the services for months instead of weeks.
I’m very proud of Kay for using her energy on a good day to provide first hand information on how hospice is “keeping me alive and feeling pretty good most days.” Her neighbors and friends were able to see an example of what can happen when hospice is chosen early.
Kay continued to create her legacy as a teacher even in the last month of life.