A record number of dying persons in the U.S. – an estimated 1.65 million patients – received care from the nation’s hospices in 2011, reports the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Approximately 44.6 percent of all deaths in the U.S. were under the care of a hospice program. This is up from 41.9 percent in 2010.
While there is an increase in the number of patients cared for, NHPCO reports that 35.7 percent died or were discharged within seven days of admission, up from 35.3 percent in 2010.
“We continue to see more dying Americans opting for hospice care at the end of their lives, yet far too many receive care for a week or less,” said J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD, NHPCO president and CEO. “We need to reach patients earlier in the course of their illness to ensure they receive the full benefits that hospice and palliative care can offer.”
NHPCO’s annual publication, Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America (PDF) reports on hospice trends and provides updated information on the growth, delivery, and quality of hospice care in the U.S.
Schumacher added, “In recent years regulators have been focused on long-length patients (11.4 percent received care for 180 or more days) and while it is understandable that they are interested in the long-length statistic, we should not overlook the fact that far too many people receive care for too short a time.”
Earlier access to hospice care can reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations; additionally, quality of life for patients and family caregivers can be improved.
Research has shown that eight out of 10 Americans would prefer to be at home at the end of life, and hospice can make this happen.
NHPCO continues to stress the importance of having healthcare providers discuss hospice palliative care as an option for patients coping with a serious or life-limiting illness. Similarly, NHPCO encourages patients and family caregivers to ask their health care providers about the benefits hospice might offer.
“There’s a common misconception that hospice care is giving up,” said Schumacher. “Nothing could be farther from the truth. Hospice provides high quality medical care and services from an interdisciplinary team of professionals and trained volunteers that maximizes quality of life and makes the wishes of the patient a priority.”
Usage of hospice has doubled in the past decade due in part to providers learning to care for a wider range of patients with more complex diagnoses such as dementia, heart disease, lung disease and more. This growth reflects the expertise of hospice providers in caring for dying Americans who need quality end-of-life care, reports NHPCO.
Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America (PDF) is available in the News Room section of NHPCO’s website, nhpco.org/newsroom.