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The Takeaway: Hospices Diversify End-of-Life Care to Suit Boomers

Hospice care with a side of golf? That's just the beginning. Hospices are working to " diversify their services" in preparation for the eventual needs of aging boomersaccording to the Associated Press. In the meantime, providers would like to dispel myths that hospice care is all doom, gloom and candlelit bedrooms.

"This is not getting ready to die. This is living - living now, living tomorrow, making the best possible life with what you have," said Robin Stawasz, of Southern Tier Hospice and Palliative Care in upstate New York.

Hospice traditionally provides medical care, pain management and emotional and/or spiritual support to patients with terminal illnesses. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, as many as 40 percent of all deaths in the United States were under the care of hospice in 2010. The number of Americans who received hospice care that year had more than doubled since 2000.

For most patients, hospice care means periodic home visits from hospice workers; a much smaller group receives round-the-clock home care or care at a hospice house. There is a growing trend, however, in this " pre-hospice" concept -- longer term programs for patients living with complex illnesses who are not necessarily terminally ill. For these patients, Southern Tier organizes things like weekend trips to casinos, golf outings, Florida vacations and dinners out. "If the real focus is to help someone stay comfortable, then that's hospice," said Stawasz.

Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, told AP that he hopes boomers will "take back" end-of-life care, as they did with the natural childbirth movement and allowing fathers in delivery rooms.

"It was driven by the boomers as citizens and consumers; it was an advocacy movement. A very similar thing needs to happen now" with hospice and end-of-life care, he said.

Tuesday Quick Hits: 

  • More employers offer "wellness" incentives. A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found 20 percent of employers offer discounted health insurance premiums for non-smoking employees, up from 12 percent in 2011. Incentives to join gyms, lose weight or institute other healthy habits are also increasingly common.

  • C.O.P.s take back Boston senior home. The 11-story  housing complex for older adults was overrun with drug-dealing, crime and loiterers, until a citizen patrol unit (called Citizens on Patrol, or "C.O.P.") helped make the hallways safe for senior residents again.

Photo: Cindy Yamanaka/ZUMA Press/Corbis

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