I found “Zen and the Art of Dying Well” (New York Times, Opinionator, Aug. 14, 2015), encouraging and also highlighting of a relatively under addressed issue in health care. My father was in home hospice, and I sat alone with him when he died of lung cancer, so it’s a topic that’s close to my heart. But, I’d never heard of residential hospice services. I think they are an amazing resource that can provide the dying with a bit more support than they would receive at home and help take some of the pressure off primary caregivers.
While the focus of the article is on treatment of patients, Ms. Martin doesn’t shy away from talking about costs. If residential hospice services cost less than hospitals and ease peoples’ journeys into death, then why are they not popping up everywhere? It would be easy to blame insurance companies – “residential hospice costs are not covered by Medicare or other insurance programs.” But, I think there is a larger issue, deeply embedded in our culture, that when we talk about dying and costs there is this ridiculous assumption that it is not possible to be both pragmatic and empathetic. Watch the movie In and Out. We’re teaching children that experiences and emotions are complex and that we can feel multiple emotions simultaneously. It’s time for us adults to realize this, too!
I’m so grateful that this article mentioned financials. “It costs the Zen Hospice Project about $750 a day to care for a resident. If that same patient were in a hospital, he or she would likely incur at least five times as much expense.” It’s okay to talk about improving care for patients, questioning levels of treatment, and costs in the same discussion. I hope to see more articles like this as more people have the courage to talk practically and passionately about health care.
You can read more about Meredith Graham and her role at the GoldLab Foundation at http://goldlabfoundation.org/team/meredith-graham/.
You can also hear Meredith and Larry Gold talk about the GoldLab Foundation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGGYPGcdr9k.
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