You’ve seen one hospice, you’ve seen them all. Or…

…have you? Ask most folks who work in hospice and palliative care and they will say, “You’ve seen one hospice, you’ve seen one hospice”.

Elderly woman and her daughterThere are more than 3,200 hospices today with different working models – some are independent, others are non-profit agencies. Profit hospice companies are often part of hospitals or health systems. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, their patient population is grossly underserved. They estimate that only one in three patients who could benefit from hospice services are actually receiving care.

In 2011, approximately 47 percent (or 1,059,000 patients) died in the US receiving hospice care at the end of lives. That is less than the percentage of people in this country who have written instructions or advance directives for their end-of-life care, such as a living will, a health care power of attorney, or a do not resuscitate (DNR) order. Despite the fact that it has been more than 50 years since Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote her groundbreaking work, On Death and Dying, Americans are very reluctant to talk to their aging parents about end-of-life decisions. Research shows parents are more willing to talk with their children about safe sex and drugs than about their own end-of-life decisions.


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