Entering hospice care doesn’t mean that death is imminent, executive says

President Jimmy Carter decides to receive hospice care in his Georgia home.

When people learned last week that former President Jimmy Carter, after several short hospital visits, had entered hospice care in his Plains, Ga., home, it raised questions about hospice and his health.

Carter, 98, is receiving medical treatment in his home just off Main Street that he has shared with his wife Rosalynn for decades, according to reports. The former president decided to spend “his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention,” according to a family statement.

After hospice was called, some people expected Carter to die within a few days. Or even hours.

“When people hear the word ‘hospice’ they think death is imminent,” said Beth Dorn, community liaison for Hospice Care of Middletown.

But Dorn remembered one local hospice patient who received care for three years because her disease didn’t progress as quickly as expected. That’s a rarity, she said.

She’s thankful Carter’s wish of receiving hospice care at home has been granted.

“He wants to be with family,” she said. “He will receive the excellent care he needs. I’m a little saddened because he was our president and he meant a lot to our country. His passing with be the end of an era.”

When hospice is called, everyone — the patient, their family and the caregivers — benefits, according to Dorn. The earlier hospice is notified, the better, she said. That allows the hospice caregivers an opportunity to better serve the patient and their family, she said.

“It’s not an easy subject,” she said about discussing death.

Hospice, she said, helps ease the “transition of a loved one.”

Even after someone under hospice care dies, the organization continues to provide bereavement services to family members for up to 12 months. Hospice also has support groups for anyone dealing with the grieving process, whether their loved one was under hospice care, she said.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) has a free community resource, CaringInfo.org, which further defines hospice care and the support it brings to patients and their loved ones.

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