“It’s about how you live.”
This is the theme for 2020’s National Hospice & Palliative Care Month, which is celebrated in November. A reminder to some and a revelation to others, this message underscores the reality that hospice and palliative care are not ultimately about death, but how one chooses to live with serious illness or in their final days.
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a time of unprecedented challenges for hospices who are toiling to maintain quality of care in the midst of a global public health emergency, often with reduced income, higher expenses, staff spread thin and difficulty reaching patients in institutions such as nursing homes and assisted living. Those facilities represent about 37% of hospice days of care, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization.
Rising above adversity is something hospice and palliative care providers know how to do. After all, caring for people in their most vulnerable moments — at the end-of-life or during times of debilitating illness — is never an easy task, especially when also navigating an ever changing regulatory and reimbursement landscape.
Through these obstacles, hospices and palliative care providers continue to deliver person-centered interdisciplinary care to more than a million of patients annually, and the nation owes them a sincere debt of gratitude.
This has been a difficult year, and uncertainty awaits in 2021. We don’t know when the pandemic will end or when we will have access to vaccines. We don’t know the full scope of changes the recent presidential election will bring, and hospices next year will be stepping into new territory with value-based care programs such as Medicare Advantage and the Primary Cares payment models.
Whatever changes, victories or troubles the new year brings, we can be confident that hospice providers will continue to innovate, adapt and overcome as they so often have. Thank you for the work you do.