Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End of Life Care and The Hospice Movement

Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End of Life Care and The Hospice Movement

by Fran Smith

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There’s a quiet revolution happening in the way we die. More than 1.5 million Americans a year die in hospice care—nearly 44 percent of all deaths—and a vast industry has sprung up to meet the growing demand. Once viewed as a New Age indulgence, hospice is now a $14 billion business and one of the most successful segments in health care. Changing the Way We Die, by award-winning journalists Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel, is the first book to take a broad, penetrating look at the hospice landscape, through gripping stories of real patients, families, and doctors, as well as the corporate giants that increasingly own the market. Changing the Way We Die is a vital resource for anyone who wants to be prepared to face life’s most challenging and universal event. You will learn: — Hospice use is soaring, yet most people come too late to get the full benefits. — With the age tsunami, it becomes even more critical for families and patients to choose end-of-life care wisely. — Hospice at its best is much more than a way to relieve the suffering of dying. It is a way to live.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936740604
Publisher: Viva Editions
Publication date: 10/28/2013
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 943,856
File size: 425 KB

About the Author

Fran Smith has written for O: The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Salon, Good Housekeeping, and many other newspapers and websites. A former John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University and Pulitzer Prize winner, she lives in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

What Do You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life?

ALL ALONG, doctors differed on Rusty Hammer’s prognosis. One told his wife, Pamela, “If he lasts five years, he’ll be lucky.” Another kept reassuring Rusty, “You never know. You’re doing fine. Just get more rest.”
He did last five years, and Pamela will always wonder whether the treatment was worth the torment.
Rusty was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a rare and aggressive blood cancer. By the time he died, on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, he had taken more than 250 medications, received more than 350 blood transfusions, had a stem cell transplant, and spent nearly 600 nights in six different hospitals. He developed severe diabetes and osteoporosis, heart and lung failure. He needed an oxygen tank to breathe and a shunt in his brain to relieve the pain. Visiting the doctor took all day, with the wheelchair, the drive, managing a hospital bed on the other end. It left them both exhausted, and hopeless that their family’s suffering would ever end.
But hospice care brought them comfort and calm. In the last six months of his life, Rusty enjoyed the company of family and friends. He explored his religious heritage. He wrote a book, and in a strange way he also became the author of his own experience — a person again, not a medical record number or an object to be handed from one specialist to another for yet another blast of debilitating treatment. The hospice team listened to him. Pamela found herself becoming a better listener, too.
This was not how Rusty thought of hospice when a friend first suggested it. He did not imagine an opportunity to reclaim his life, let alone do something new or grow. He thought of hospice as a place you go to die, and he was appalled.

Table of Contents

Foreword Joan Halifax, Ph.D. xiii

Introduction xv

Part 1 The Choice 1

1 What Do You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life? 3

2 Birth of a Movement 13

3 Cure Versus Care 33

Part 2 The Patients 49

4 Evelyn Landes: House Calls 51

5 Alice and Ying Wun: A Fragile Family Peace 63

6 Peter Serrell: Final Fast 73

7 Fred Holliday: Inside the Catch-22 of Hospice 83

Part 3 The Survivors

8 Up from the Abyss 97

9 Turning Points 109

Part 4 The Providers 119

10 The Gift of Grace 121

11 New Course for Doctors 135

12 Dying for Dollars 149

13 Cultural Revolutions 167

14 Not If, But When 177

Reflections 187

Acknowledgments 193

Notes 195

Index 217

About the Authors 225

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Changing the Way We Die: Compassionate End of Life Care and The Hospice Movement 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's never too late and this book taught me that. It will open your eyes on how mortal we are all. The real life stories in the book will hit you like a cold shower, but they needed to be told. Appreciate the small moments, always have compassion, and change the way you die with this book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have not had a loved one admitted to hospice care, but my mom, who has been an RN for more than 20 years, has worked in home health care for the past six years. She doesn't talk much about losing her patients, but what I could get from what she did say was that their deaths saddened her. After reading the book, I understand much more about her everyday world than she could ever tell me and have actually passed along this book to her to read. I'm sure she will love it as much as I did (the personal stories were what hit home for me).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An important book, well informed and well-researched, I admit I was turned onto holistic care. It was never actually something I had considered until I picked up this book. It's well worth a look.