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Raising Awareness of Hospice and Palliative Care

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October 3, 2018

All too often, it is only when facing serious and life-threatening illness that people discuss their wishes.  But, it’s at this time that a dizzying array of health care choices materialize, concerns over health predominate every waking moment and worry about family and other concerns can become overwhelming.

Better.  Talk about your wishes ahead of time.  Learn about the options and let your loved ones know your needs.

That’s exactly what World Hospice and Palliate Care Day, October 13, 2018, is all about - raising awareness and understanding of the needs – medical, social, practical, spiritual – of people and their families living with a life limiting illness.

“Palliative care is an expression of the truly human attitude of taking care of one another, especially of those who suffer,” said Pope Francis to a gathering of health care professionals. “It is a testimony that the human person is always precious, even if marked by illness and old age. Indeed, the person, under any circumstances, is an asset to him/herself and to others and is loved by God.”

Hospice and palliative care are different although many people confuse the two.  Hospice is for people with a terminal illness and who are not expected to live longer than six months, says the Catholic Health Association. The focus is on comfort, not curing an illness.

Palliative case if for people living with serious illness who may also be receiving treatment to cure their illness or prolong their life.  Health care professionals recommend early referrals to palliative care.

Confusion, anxiety and fear of being a burden are common problems that people with serious illnesses encounter.  To addresses this situation, the California Catholic Conference has teamed with the two major Catholic health care providers in California (Dignity Health and Providence/St. Joseph).

The Whole Person Care Initiative will work to ensure that parishioners and patients are loved and well supported during their illness, can openly talk with their spiritual leaders, clinicians, and family members about their wishes at the end of life, and have access to high quality, lower cost palliative care before they suffer needless medical procedures.  (Watch a video.)

As part of the initiative, the California partnership is working with the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) to disseminate the principals and practice of Whole Person Care to other states.  To mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month (November), CHA and the Supportive Care Coalition (SCC) have developed resources to encourage health care providers and the public to learn more about the benefits of palliative care.

"And even if we know that we cannot always guarantee healing or a cure, we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death,” explained Pope Francis.  “This approach is reflected in palliative care, which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome — pain and loneliness."