National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is celebrated every November across the nation, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is working with its membership to increase public awareness about the benefits of hospice and palliative care. This year’s theme, “My Hospice. A Program that Works. A Benefit that Matters,” showcases the success of hospice care in the U.S and highlights the value it brings to individuals, families, and the overall healthcare delivery system.
What began primarily as a volunteer-driven, grassroots movement in the 1970s is now an integrated part of our nation’s health care delivery system that provides care to more than 1.43 million Medicare beneficiaries and their families every year.
“Enacted as a demonstration in 1978 and a Medicare benefit in 1982 as our nation’s first coordinated care model, hospice programs have served millions of Americans and their families with compassionate care to relieve pain, manage symptoms, support patients and their family caregivers, and provide bereavement services for individuals following the death of a loved one,” said Edo Banach, president and CEO of NHPCO. “The benefit has been invaluable to patients and lifesaving for families.”
NHPCO strongly advocates that future healthcare delivery reforms should build upon the successful hospice model by expanding access to comprehensive, coordinated care and person- and family-centered care to all patients with serious, advanced and life-limiting illnesses. This is one of the key messages of NHPCO’s national My Hospice Campaign launched earlier this year.
NHPCO offers a snapshot of hospice care with representative statistics in the current edition of its report, Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America (PDF):
- 48 percent of Medicare decedents were enrolled in hospice at the time of death (in 2016).
- Median length of service was 24 days.
- 5 percent of patients received care for 90 days or less, while those receiving care for more than 180 days accounted for 13.6 percent.
- Cancer was the most common principle diagnosis, accounting for 27.2 percent of patients; increasing among the patient populations is a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia which accounts for 18 percent.
- 98 percent of care was provided at the Routine Home Care level with 55.6 percent of RHC days taking place in the home.
“One of the most common regrets we hear from hospice patients and their families is that they delayed the decision to choose hospice care, underscoring the need to individuals and families to fully understand their options when approaching end of life,” noted Banach.
Nearly 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries receive hospice care for seven days or less, a period considered too short to take full advantage of the many services the hospice interdisciplinary team offers.
Banach added, “Palliative care services provided as part of a continuum of care may help with a timelier transition to hospice, ensuring that people are getting the best care and support services possible at the most appropriate time.”
As part of national outreach efforts, NHPCO is sponsoring a Social Media Action Day on Friday, November 2. This annual event was created to share positive and informational messages about end-of-life care via social media. All supporters and advocates are encouraged to participate using the hashtag #HospiceMonth or #MyHospice.
To learn more about hospice, palliative care, advance care planning, or to find a hospice provider in your community, visit NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org.
Every year NHPCO issues a National Hospice and Palliative Care Month Proclamation, which is available online.