Health Care Reform – An Accurate Perspective on End-of-Life Care

Given all of the mis-information and escalated rhetoric about health care reform, especially as it relates to end-of-life healthcare issues, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has provided us with an accurate and timely web-site link to stay abreast of this important issue currently being debated in Washington, DC and across the country.

Advance Directives On-Line

One of the most important components of what the late Rev. Charles Meyer refers to as The Good Death is to get our medical and legal affairs in order long before end-of-life is near.  Such a pro-active plan allows us to have our collective faculties around us when making decisions like what kind of medical care we prefer, who we want making decisions for us if we are incapable, where we want to die, etc.  Making such decisions is vitally important, yet seldom at the forefront of our minds.

In order to help us with this endeavor, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Caring Connections, a leading provider of advance care planning information, and Google Health™ have joined together in a goal of increasing the access to and availability of advance care planning information and resources on line.  As J. Donald Shumacher, President and CEO of NHPCO, stated: “How can medical professionals honor your health care wishes and preferences if they don’t know what they are?  Advance directives are useless unless they are available during emergency health care situations.  Google Health will make these documents accessible on line and will eliminate a huge barrier of access during times of need.” 

Through this partnership, users of Google Health can access and download a free, state-specific advance directive and then store the scanned documents securely on line.  For more information on accessing this important resource, go to www.google.com/health and create a count for yourself.  Then download and print the advance directive form for your particular state at www.caringinfo.org/googlehealth.

Best wishes on your planning.  Melody

Some definitions …

In talking with people across the country about end-of-life care issues, oftentimes I am asked about definitions of some of the most widely-used terms in this arena of health care, including palliative care and hospice.  ‘What’s the difference?’, people ask.

Here’s a brief reflection:  The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)(www.nhpco.org) defines palliative care as: “treatment that enhances comfort and improves the quality of an individual’s life during the last phase of life.”  One of the key distinctions between palliative care and hospice is that a standard hospice benefit under Medicare applies when a patient’s physician and the hospice medical director certify that a patient has a life expectancy of six (6) months or less, based on the ‘normal’ progression of the disease.  As representatives of Hospice Austin describe, while all hospice care is considered a part of palliative care, not all palliative care is hospice care. 

…Just some definitional food for thought which might be helpful as we think about end-of-life care times we all face.