Last week I attended the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s annual springtime meeting in Washington DC, cherry blossoms and all!
It was a time to catch up on all the issues facing our hospice and palliative care movement, to reconnect with old friends…
Jeanne Dennis, Susan Bruno, Patti Moore and Andrew Reed
Pauline Taylor, Demetess Harrell, Patti and Larry Farrow
and to make new ones…
Dr. Angela Katz and Patti
Even though the name of the event has changed to the Leadership and Advocacy Conference, it was really a gathering of the Hospice Clan.
The opening plenary speaker stretched our capacity to think with our logical brains by entering the auditorium playing his electric violin. His music was simply stunning. A classically trained violinist, Kai Kight shared the inspiring story of how he chose to become an innovative composer in a field that values conformity.
Kai Kight opening plenary speaker at NHPCO 2019
Similarities between the music world and ours were evident when he shared his experiences in his former life as an orchestra member, where any deviation from the score is grounds for censure or dismissal and taking an individual approach is discouraged.Using his original music as a metaphor, Kai inspired us to compose paths of imagination and fulfillment in a world hemmed in by regulation and restriction.
Hospice is at a crossroads. We can choose to sit in the orchestra, playing the music handed to us by Medicare/Medicaid, and try to survive within those narrow guidelines – or we can instead choose to say, “Yes, and…” to doing more for the next generation of dying people and their loved ones. The theme resonated loud and clear to all of us at the meeting: innovate or evaporate.
More people at the end of life are staying in their own homes, alone, and are perfectly happy being there, even if it means marginal care and unsafe situations. Will you care for them? More people are asking for treatment until the very end because, “My doctor said it might give me another day or week”. Will you care for them?
Hospice still equals capitulating to death to many Americans, and death remains the Evil Empire, even though it’s the only thing we can all count on. For hospices to survive, we must say “Yes, and…” instead of “No, we don’t…” We’ve got to be willing to offer core hospice services and to innovate; to create new ways to bring our unique and remarkable kind of care to the aging, frail, seriously ill population; returning their sense of agency and empowerment in their last days, easing their suffering, and caring for body, mind and spirit, no matter where they live. Hospice is the instrument we play, but the music must come from the heart.