Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hospice & Black History Month

Hospice, Death, and Dying in the African American Community

"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. It’s not so much the act of dying itself, but the things that are surrounding death: injustice, poverty, mistreatment and evil...” There’s a sense that we won’t be stopped by those things—our ‘somehow theology.’ Some how, some way, we will get through this.—Rev. Frank Jackson
Faith Presbyterian Church

 A Brief Overview

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website, an estimated 1.65 million people received hospice services in 2011.  Of those patients only 8.5% were African American.  With such a small percentage of the African American population receiving hospice services at the end of life, it begs the question, "Why are African American families not receiving the same health care as other races in the United States?"

Some point towards attitudes regarding death and dying in the African American community as a reason why there is a limited number of families opting for hospice care.  An enlightening article titled African American Perspectives on Pain and Palliative Care from Duke Divinity School's Institute on Care at the End of Life offers insightful research into the subject.  The author relates (through a quote by Reverend Frank Jackson of Faith Presbyterian Church as seen above) that the African American experience in the United States is characterized by struggle and triumph.  It is suggested that this attitude of resistance and triumph carries over to present day thoughts about death and dying in African American culture.  This line of thought may lean towards a preference for curative treatments over the comfort care provided by hospices nationwide.

Kaitlyn Henderson of Passages Hospice documents in her blog post on February 21, 2013 that there is a lack of access to quality health care in the African American community.  Inequality has long been a problem in the United States.  Present day statistics regarding mortality rates of African Americans support the idea that inequality still exists in our culture.  A clear, strong disparity in health of African Americans as compared to other U.S. populations can be seen here in numbers from the Center for Disease Control.

Another key hurdle in providing fair and equal health care to all populations is awareness.  All populations show a lack of knowledge about hospice services in polls.  Few of those who understand the concept of hospice know that hospice appropriate patients are completed covered under Medicare if they choose a palliative approach to treating illness.  Hospice may not be the right choice for everyone based off of personal preferences, but it still the duty of all who are familiar with hospice to spread the positive word.  Helping others understand that hospice is not giving up or accepting defeat in the face of adversity is essential for the future of hospice and helping others understand their health care options. 

For further reading, take a look at this Washington Post Article written by Rob Stein in 2007 titled At the End of Life, a Racial Divide.

bout Medi Hospice

It is the goal of Medi Hospice to help ALL of our patients diagnosed with life limiting illness live as fully as possible until the end.  Ensuring patients experiencing the highest quality of life without pain is a priority of our staff.  Through the compassionate care of nurses and aides, volunteers, social workers assessing psychological needs, and chaplains who look to spiritually nurture our patients and their families, our hospice team seeks to implement a system of total and complete care that eases the transition from life to death.  The mantra of hospice can often be articulated as "death with dignity" and "living until the end."  None of us can avoid death.  Death is most surely a part of life as is birth.  Understanding that, we can all do our best to enjoy the time and life we have together.  If you are interested in learning more about hospice or becoming a hospice volunteer, please contact Travis Kennedy,Volunteer Coordinator, at 804-282-4301.

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