Barbara, diagnosed with terminal cancer, wants everyone to know what she's learned about hospice care.
"Don't wait until the last minute [to start hospice services]," she said. "Hospice isn't all about death and dying. It's about transcending where you are and getting ready for when the time comes."
When Barbara began receiving help from Transitions HospiceCare (founded as Hospice of Wake County), she discovered that they begin by wanting to understand the patient’s goals to make the final months their most fulfilling.
Barbara, like 70 percent of all Americans according to surveys, says she prefers to die at home surrounded by family. Contrary to a common misperception, hospice isn't an actual place. it's a philosophy of care that's practiced around 80 percent of the time wherever the patient calls home -- whether that's a private residence, assisted living facility or nursing home.
But Barbara also didn't want to be a homebody during her final months. Transitions HospiceCare scheduled regular transportation to a local senior center where she could continue to socialize. The Transitions team even arranged to fulfill a couple of Barbara's dreams -- the opportunity to fly in and "co-pilot" a private plane, and take a ride on an old-fashioned steam-engine train.
"Transitions HospiceCare cares for the whole person: physically, mentally, emotionally," Barbara explained. "All my needs are taken care of. All my supplies are taken care of. I don't have to worry about anything."
Hospice care usually provides a comprehensive range of services that is typically covered in full by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.
For example, with Transitions HospiceCare as Barbara's provider, she receives medical care from an attending physician and regularly scheduled visits from a registered nurse. Medications, supplies and equipment related to the terminal illness -- including needs like oxygen tanks for Barbara -- are delivered directly to her home.
The Transitions team also provides emotional and spiritual support for the entire family, including counseling from social workers and spiritual care from chaplains.
Home health aides assist with bathing, grooming, changing bed linens and other activities of everyday life related directly to the patient. Trained volunteers are available to provide companionship, run errands for the family or give family caregivers a break.
"A volunteer, Peggy, will come and play cards with me," Barbara said.
With so much support for Barbara and her family, she has been able to focus on what matters most to her -- living what's left of her life to the fullest.
"To me, the quality of life is more important than the quantity," she said. "The key is to enjoy life day to day as much as you can. I'm pain-free. I'm alert. And I'm able to still do things I want to do."
She added, "I've had a full life, and I'm ready to go when my time comes. Not going to hurry it, and I'm not going to delay it. So I think that hospice is the right choice for me, and the doctor said I made the right choice, too."
This story was written for our sponsor, Transitions HospiceCare.