Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel both lost their fathers around the same time – but one died in the hospital while the other died in hospice care. The differences in their experiences inspired the two journalists to take a closer look at hospice care. More than 1.5 million Americans die in hospice each year. Smith and Himmel discuss the misconceptions about hospice, and how it might change as 76 million baby boomers approach retirement.

‘Changing the Way We Die’: A Deeper Look at Hospice Care 11 April,2014forum

Sheila Himmel, former San Jose Mercury News journalist and co-author of "Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End-of-Life Care and The Hospice Movement"
Fran Smith, former San Jose Mercury News journalist and co-author of "Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End-of-Life Care and The Hospice Movement"

  • theresa

    My father died in a hospice and was able to be surrounded by his family and even his dog was allowed in and on the bed.His wife was allowed to sleep in the room on a bed they brought in beside him. It took over a week for him to die after a stroke and the hospice in Turlock made us feel taken care of as well as him. The staff was warm and supportive as well as other families around us going through the same thing. As death goes it was a beautiful experience compared to his time in the hospital.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    I believe that people should have all the information on what is available to them, and what are the actual statistics on survival, side effects, etc. for people in their situations. Where you choose to go with that information is up to the person and their families, but people need that information.

    And why aren’t we calling doctors recommending ‘treatments’ they believe to be of no use malpractice? steph

  • debby

    I’m so appreciative of this Forum episode. I type this as a caregiver for my terminally ill father; we’re receiving home hospice support from the nonprofit Hospice by the Bay. He’s been in and out of two hospital ICUs and emergency rooms since February, declining following each costly hospitalization. Home hospice has given him an opportunity to gradually and comfortably decline at home. I should also mention that my dad is a native Mandarin Chinese speaker and Hospice by the Bay has provided Chinese speaking team members (RN, social worker, pastor), to support him. For us, hospice has been an incredible benefit to dad and our entire family and I would encourage any family confronting end-of-life care to investigate this option.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    re: Having the discussion beforehand. There is a form called the Physician Ordered Life Sustaining Treatment form, or POLST, which you can get from your doctor and fill out whenever you want. The POLST goes thru all types of scenarios – do you want CPR, do you want supplemental nutrition or hydration, etc. and has space for anything else you want to indicate.

    You file this form with your doc and the hospital, and it’s witnessed by the doc and whoever you’re listing as the main person to contact about these issues. My (healthy) mom filled one out a couple of years ago, and it is a great way to talk through all of these things beforehand. It makes it very clear what you want done, i’m so glad my mom did this so if the time comes it’ll be more straightforward for me and my two siblings.

    I recommend this to anyone wanting to prepare. Do an internet search for “POLST” for more info, the regulations and specifics vary by state. steph

  • ES Trader

    Seems that an argument for euthanasia should be made

  • Bhumi

    This is such an invaluable topic and our only wish is this discussion was brought forth more frequently. Hosting 3 assisted living communities in Albany, CA. Our greatest partnership these past 10 years has been our hospice care providers who assist our staff through specialized training for hospice residents and provide their support within our homes to our families. One of the biggest challenges is judging pain in residents. Our goal in hospice is to provide comfort care, but during the course of care there comes a point where it is nearly impossible to really know how much of medication should be given to provide the most comfort so that the resident may pass peacefully. The Hospice work is one of the most challenging and difficult tasks as they are required to continually assess and reassess at times with little to no indication from the resident.

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