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A cat. A movie. And peppermint patties. Sometimes there are alternatives to hospitalization.

“If they told me I had six months to live, or [could instead] go to the hospital and last two years, I’d say leave me home.” 

The sentiments are familiar to me.

I’ve heard many hospice patients utter such words—and certainly my own mom, who somewhat-politely refused to return to the hospital after her last admission four years prior to her death.

When her doctor recommended a trip to the ER, she chose to go home and watch Netflix with her cat and eat peppermint patties instead.

And—she lived with us, had me to take care of her, and we stayed in close contact with her physician’s office.

The context of care matters.

Regardless, the words above don’t belong to my mom or any of my former patients—but to Gerald Chinchar, a 77-year-old Navy veteran highlighted in a great article by NPR entitled, “For Some, Pre-Hospice Care Can Be a Good Alternative to Hospitals.”

The article provides an excellent overview of the benefits of community-based palliative care that is separate from hospice care.  In this model, patients with severe illness can receive care at home for pain and symptom management—usually within an interdisciplinary framework—yet still pursue “curative” treatments as needed.

My mom was enrolled in such a program for several months prior to transitioning to hospice. It was such an incredible relief to have her doctor walk into her bedroom and embrace the type of care Mom wanted for the remaining months of her life.

Although the hospital is certainly the best setting for many situations—community-based palliative care may be a wonderful alternative for those with serious illness who would prefer to receive their care at home.

For more information, check out getpalliativecare.org.

And for additional resources, please visit our page, Resources for the Journey.

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