Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VAMC
Veterans Choose Hospice/Palliative Care
The conference, entitled SHIFT, is part of the VA’s “We Honor Veterans” program and is designed to support the rapidly growing trend of seriously-ill VA and non-VA patients to spend their end-of-life in a palliative care or hospice setting.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, more than 44 percent of all U.S. deaths occurred in a hospice/palliative care setting with 45 percent of those patients receiving hospice/palliative care in their own homes. For patients receiving VA medical care the percentage is even higher.
“When given the choice to spend your final weeks in an ICU or acute care setting, or focusing on making you and your family comfortable in an as home-like environment as possible in hospice, Veterans choose hospice/palliative care,” said Dr. Scott Schreve, national director for Hospice and Palliative Care.
The reason Veterans choose palliative/hospice care is due to the care they receive. In a satisfaction survey, 75 percent of the families whose loved one received palliative care at a VA facility, rated the palliative care as excellent.
“If you give Veterans options I think they make rational choices to say this is the care that I need, let me go and be cared for by the palliative care team,” said Schreve.
What can healthcare providers and patients do to ensure a smooth transition to hospice/palliative care? According to Schreve, all you have to do is ask.
“When you are faced with pain that is intolerable, shortness of breath, or cancer that is advancing, and you just don’t know what to do, ask your doctor to ask the palliative care team to help you out,” he said.
Veterans do not have to worry about losing any of their VA benefits by enrolling in palliative/hospice care, it is an add-on benefit. The VA will provide palliative/hospice care for all enrolled Veterans as part of their Uniform Benefits Package.
Patients, the families, and medical providers can learn more about the VA’s palliative/hospice care by visiting www.WeHonorVeterans.org or by visiting the National Hospice Foundation at www.nationalhospicefoundation.org.