Entries in Hospice (3)


Woman Lobbies Hallmark for 'End of Life' Greeting Cards

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- During the two months that Regina Holliday's husband, Fred, was hospitalized with cancer, he received a tower of "Get Well Soon" cards, each a reminder of the friends and family who cared about him.  But when all hope for recovery was gone and he entered hospice care, the cards stopped coming.

"You get cards and messages when you are fighting the good fight, but the minute you are done fighting, people don't know what to do," Holliday said.  "Once they hear the word hospice, they tend to shut down."

Holliday is now lobbying Hallmark, the world's largest distributor of greeting cards, to offer a line of cards specifically for those entering hospice.

Holliday, an artist who became a health care advocate after her husband died three years ago, said she wanted to help people find ways to talk about important end-of-life issues.  Last year, when she was asked on a tweet chat about ways to encourage these kinds of conversations, she said the answer was for Hallmark to create hospice cards.

"They have an amazing reach into every corner of America.  If they create a card on this topic, they will open up the conversation nationwide," she said.

As Holliday views it, everyone dies, and about 1.6 million people enter hospice each year.  Impending death represents a phenomenal marketing opportunity for Hallmark, she said.

It took Holliday a year to engage the greeting card distributor on the topic.

At first she called Hallmark directly, navigating unsuccessfully through several layers of customer service, she said.  Next, she tried reaching Hallmark through personal connections and back channels, all to no avail, she said.  Finally, she created an online petition on and began to tweet about her campaign on Twitter.

Hallmark, a privately held company based in Kansas City, Mo., quickly responded to Holliday's tweets last week in two ways.

The Hallmark internal search engine now recognizes the word "hospice" and the phrase "end of life," and suggests cards to match.  Before Holliday's campaign, the first search term returned no matches and the latter brought up a slew of Bat Mitzvah cards for celebrating a Jewish girl's rite of passage into womanhood.

The company also released a statement on its website titled: "Viewpoints: Greeting Cards for People in Hospice Care," which says, in part, that "Hallmark offers nearly 100 cards to help people share words of support for a range of life situations, including cancer treatment, serious or terminal illness, grief support, recovery/rehab and other difficult times, as well as cards for caregivers."

While Holliday applauded both moves, she continued to push Hallmark to create cards that addressed end of life issues head on.  She said current cards with sayings such as "Cancer Is Tough, but You Are Tougher," are nice, but miss the mark.

"This is the last thing a hospice patient with cancer wants to hear," she said.  "Too often they have been told that this is a fight, cancer is a battle.  What is hospice?  Losing?"

Linda Odell, a spokeswoman for Hallmark, said the company was not ruling out developing a line of greetings to address end of life but pointed out that many of the company's current offerings, including blank and customizable greetings, could be used as a jumping-off point for starting tough conversations about virtually any situation or relationship in life.

"In reality, this is a really sensitive subject and a delicate line to balance.  Some feel the need for a card to express these difficult thoughts, while some feel it's inappropriate to have such cards," Odell said.

Holliday hopes Hallmark will take up messages for end of life and hospice soon, as well as for numerous other formerly taboo topics, including miscarriage and addiction.

"Clear messaging gives us permission to talk about life and death," Holliday said.  "We need to see a 'Hospice' header right beside the 'Get Well' and 'Thinking of You.'"

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Government Spending on Hospice Care More than $12 Billion 

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The amount of money Medicare spent on hospice care increased more than 53 percent between 2005 and 2009 to $12 billion, according to a government report.

Hospice care is provided at the end of a person's life and focuses on providing comfort in a patient's final days, not a cure for any disease.  Medicare covers certain hospice care costs provided a person has a terminal illness, six months or less to live, and receives care in an approved facility.

The rise in spending is largely due to a big increase in the number of people who utilize hospice services.  In 2009, more than one million people received hospice care, a 25 percent increase over 2005.  People can receive this type of care at home, in a long-term care facility, in hospitals or in facilities that specialize in hospice care.

In addition to a boom in the number of people who receive it, the number of facilities that provide end-of-life care services also increased.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of hospices in 2009 were for-profit.  These same hospices received more money from Medicare than non-profit and government-owned hospices, even though there are far fewer of them.

Although the government paid more money to profit-making providers, Medicare pays the same rate to all hospices.

"Reimbursement is all the same -- it's the same dollar amount per day," said Don Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, a non-profit organization that represents hospice and palliative care programs and professionals nationwide.

Information on Medicare's website shows the current rate is $146.63 for daily routine home care.

Robert Field, a professor of health management and policy at the Drexel School of Public Health in Philadelphia, explained the main reason for-profits made so much more money is because of that per diem payment system.

"Medicare pays in a way that incentivizes overuse," he said.  "Providers get a certain rate per day, and the longer patients stay in, the more they make.  The incentive is to enter patients into hospice before they really need it and to keep them there beyond the time they may no longer need it -- they may no longer be on the verge of dying in many cases."

Critics of for-profit hospices say the current reimbursement structure could lead facilities to hand-pick certain patients who cost less medically but require longer stays, maximizing profits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


More Americans Opt for Hospice for End-of-Life Care

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- More Americans are choosing hospice care over hospitals for end-of-life care, reports Health Day News. In 2008, two in every five people who died in the U.S. were under hospice care, according to the national hospice group.

People facing fatal illnesses often feel a lack of control with medical staff in and out the room treating and testing at all times.  Hospice, on the other hand, offers patients more control and compassionate care and treatment. 

"I don't know about you, but when I'm sick and not feeling good, I'd much rather be at home," J. Donald Schumacher, who is president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, told Health Day News.  "I think dying is the same way.  If you're going to die, it's better to be in your own environment and away from the high-technology setting of the hospital."

Kathleen Pacurar, president of San Diego Hospice and the Institute for Palliative Medicine that because of the acute nature of terminal illnesses, patients are often making multiple trips to emergency rooms and hospitals.  Consequently, hospice care can often be the more cost effective way of caring for the terminally ill.

"With hospice, because we are managing their symptoms and pain and we're available 27/7, patients call us rather than the medics when they are in pain or distress.  That means fewer trips to the hospital and a lot few medical procedures," Pacurar said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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