Tuesday night we lost an inspiring figure in our political world. Former first lady Barbara Bush was known and respected for her strong spirit even by those she disagreed with. She always stood up for her beliefs, refusing to be swayed by the tides of political popularity, even within her own party. As first lady, she set an example as a strong, practical woman with high ethical standards. In choosing to die without pursuing extraordinary measures, she continued to be a role model.
In choosing "comfort care" Mrs. Bush made the decision to forego potentially painful and costly treatments that *might* prolong her life but certainly would not prevent her death. Instead, she faced up to the inevitable and chose medical care that would allow her to make the most of her remaining time with her loved ones. Her wishes were clear, and her family respected them.
Mrs. Bush died in the comfort of her own home, with her beloved husband holding her hand until the end. We can all learn a lot from her example. As a doctor, I have seen the tragedy of final weeks wasted when terminal patients pursue treatments that cannot possibly change the ultimate outcome. I have seen the stress and pain that falls on family members who must make medical decisions for their loved ones without knowing their wishes.
Studies have shown time and again that patients who choose hospice care - the same "comfort care" that Mrs. Bush chose - are happier and more comfortable in their final days. They can focus on what really matters at the end of life, spending time with loved ones and attending to spiritual matters.
It's never too early to start having conversations with your loved ones about their wishes. Part of sharing a life means taking responsibility for what happens at the end. Do you know what your loved ones want? Do they know your wishes? These conversations aren't always easy, but they are always better had before they are necessary.
As a non-profit, Alive Hospice can go above and beyond the standards of hospice care set by Medicare. Our donors allow us to provide additional services to the community, including education for professionals in health care (doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, etc.) as well as community members. This week is National Healthcare Decisions Week, and we see this first lady as an incredible role model, taking charge and living out her values until the end.
We're here to help you do the same. Visit our end-of-life planning site at http://www.thegiftinitiative.org/ for materials and information to help you get started.
Dr. Robert Berkompas, Chief Medical Officer of Alive Hospice