Dying Ain’t What It Used to Be

hospice care

By Ron VanBuskirk, MD

An article I read recently stated, “dying isn’t what it used to be.”

From a physician’s perspective, I can tell you that it certainly is not. Americans have seen a dramatic change in their life expectancy since 1900 – rising from 47 years to 79 years. Medical science has done much to change not only this average length of life, but also how that life comes to a close. In 1900, most deaths were the result of an infectious disease, but now, diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes, and more bring about our demise. Sadly, while seven out of ten Americans today say they would prefer to die at home, (which, by the way, is where the majority of Americans died in the 1900s), over 70% of those Americans die in institutions surrounded not by family and friends, but alone, surrounded by a cacophony of machines, tubes and technology.

When we ask ourselves how to make our final journey what we want it to be like (i.e. more comfortable, less suffering, time to fully live with those we care about, doing the things we choose, etc…) the answer is high quality hospice care.

While most individuals have the mistaken perception that hospice care is about death or is a “death sentence,” the truth is that the very best hospice care is about giving life. A recent Duke University study compared people with like diseases and like condition levels, and showed that those receiving hospice care not only lived better, but they lived longer that those without this care.

Imagine having a highly trained, experienced, compassionate, knowledgeable team of professionals including physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, aides and even trained volunteers, caring for you in your home, focusing on your wishes and goals and keeping you comfortable enough to live every moment of your life. Imagine your family having education, guidance and support in caring for you so that they can spend quality time with you. That is excellence of hospice care in a nutshell.

As a physician, I want that for myself and for those I love, and I find that providing this type of care is the most rewarding work I have ever done. My prescription for you is to explore your options. Find out what quality hospice care is all about… and do it now, before it is too late.

Ron VanBuskirk, MD, is the Medical Director of Home Hospice of Grayson, Cooke & Fannin Counties. For more information, visit www.homehospice.org or call 940-665-9891.