VNA of Northwest Indiana has watched awareness in hospice and palliative care grow over the many years they have provided patient-focused support services around the Region. Yet for many physicians and other medical professionals, approaching the topic of transitioning a patient to hospice care is difficult.
To help physicians learn how to approach these conversations, VNA partnered with Dr. Arjun Gupta, M.D., to host a special presentation called “Death Isn’t Failure” at Sand Creek Country Club on Thursday. Gupta is a surgeon for Porter Regional Hospital, and in his 48-year career spent several years serving as a hospice medical director. He offered attendees a special perspective on what hospice care means to patients and their families, built on his years of experience.
“Hospice isn’t taking care of people waiting to die, it is guiding people in the processes of the end-of-life,” Gupta said. “It’s yet another specialty in medicine, just as you have heart specialists to take care of people with heart disease, or surgeons to take care of surgical problems. Hospice is intended for when none of those other things are applicable. It’s not giving up—it’s changing the type of care to something more appropriate for that stage of life.”
As the word “hospice” becomes more common, it becomes ever more essential to educate patients and their families on what it means. Yet physicians, usually the most trusted resource for those looking into hospice care, often struggle to discuss the topic.
“This is really about community education regarding hospice,” said Bob Franko, President and CEO of VNA of NWI. “You’ll hear Dr. Gupta say doctors are born and trained to be fixers, so when it comes time to have the hospice conversation it’s something entirely different than they’re used to. A lot of them avoid it, or defer it to someone else. We want to demystify hospice and take away the stigma, it’s just another phase of healthcare.”
VNA Hospice Physician Dr. Sunil Patel, M.D., has had that conversation with patients and their families, witnessing the difference it made in quality-of-life.
“In a lot of these cases, patients and families feel such relief that someone finally brought up the thoughts they had in their mind,” said Patel. “They’re often waiting for their doctor to bring up the subject of hospice care. It’s important to have this conversation at the right time so that we can provide peace towards the end-of-life.”
Everyone’s journey in hospice care is different, but for Gupta and the VNA, the most important thing is that families have the opportunity to start it.
“Invariably, the remark that I’ve heard from patients and families afterward is ‘thank you,’” Gupta said. “They’re grateful to have made that last journey, last passage, last part of a person’s life. It may be just a few days, it may even be several months, but we’ve allowed people to continue telling the story of their life for as long as they can – without giving up their ability to live comfortably.”
To learn more about the VNA of NWI, visit www.vnanwi.org.