National Hospice Month Highlights Veterans’ Need for Hospice Care, Sometimes Due to Mesothelioma
President Obama has declared November National Hospice Month as a time to “recognize those who allow the terminally ill to receive comfortable and dignified care.” Turning to a hospice program is one option to explore when a mesothelioma patient no longer responds to a prescribed treatment plan, and the primary caregiver needs support caring for their loved one.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer typically affecting the lining of the lungs. Primarily caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, mesothelioma has an extended latency period – symptoms can sometimes take between 20-50 years to appear. However, once symptoms become apparent, mesothelioma may rapidly progress to cause life-threatening complications. The treatment at this point is often palliative, and is aimed at relieving the symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life.
Hospice care can be offered in a facility or at a patient’s home where a hospice nurse will check vital signs, help manage pain, provide nutrition guidelines, and explain the changes in symptoms a patient is experiencing. According to the Hospice Foundation of America, hospice is designed to improve the quality of a patient’s last days by offering comfort and dignity. Hospice often allows a patient to remain in their own home surrounded by their loved ones.
The presidential proclamation specifically recognizes those that served in the US military noting “as many of our Nation’s veterans age and cope with illness, hospice and palliative care can also provide tailored support to meet the needs of these heroes.” Asbestos was widely used in the military between the 1940s and 1970s putting veterans at a greater risk of asbestos exposure. As a result, military and veteran populations account for a disproportionately high percentage of mesothelioma cases – nearly 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases are veterans.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States, declares this year’s theme to be “Preserving a legacy…treasuring memories” to remind the public that “every person we care for is a unique individual with a lifetime of experiences, relationships and gifts to share.”
During National Hospice Month, the president adds that “all Americans should take comfort in the important work of hospice care, which enables individuals to carry on their lives, in spite of a terminal illness.”