April 29, 2016
Moore Mission Moments - The Watershed Group

The Future of Hospice As Seen From Capitol Hill

by Patti Moore

As I return home from a week in Washington DC, advocating for hospice on Capitol Hill and attending the 31st National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Management and Leadership Conference, I am once again filled with hope and pride in the difference this work continues to make in the lives of millions of dying people, their families and their loved ones across the country.


While on Capitol Hill on behalf of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation, I heard the personal stories of Congressmen and Senators who, while they represent diametrically different political points of view, shared very similar experiences of the deaths of loved ones, with and without the support of hospice. 


Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) said he and his family experienced the “horrible” death of a beloved grandmother – but that thanks to hospice, his father’s “good” death had left the family with a comforting glow. Congressman Dr. Roe (R-TN) spoke of his agony at having to complete “do not resuscitate” orders for his wife and both parents.  Clearly, the pain of losing a loved one knows no political boundaries and is one experience we’ll all have to face: If we live long enough we will lose someone we love. 


I expected to find cynicism and a complete breakdown of compromise, but instead I discovered a kernel of hope; hope that those on both sides of the aisle could find common ground on how to support our soon-to-be enormous population of frail elders suffering multiple chronic illnesses. There is movement on many fronts, from the bipartisan bill by Congressmen Blumenour (D-OR) and Dr. Roe to allow payment for physicians to be trained on how to have “The Conversation” around patients’ wishes for their final weeks or months of life, to a Chronic Care Work Group led by Senator Isakson (R-GA).  With the absurdity of “death panels” (hopefully) behind us, we must begin a candid discussion about how we will support the millions of people living well into their 90’s and 100’s and how they wish to be cared for at the ends of their days.


Then I attended the 31st National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Management and Leadership Conference, marking the end of an era as Don Schumacher, the CEO of NHPCO, announced his retirement at the end of 2016.  His contributions to the care of the dying and their loved ones have been remarkable, both as the CEO of one of the nation’s most innovative hospice programs in Buffalo, New York, and in Washington DC representing the hospice and palliative care movement.  We will greatly miss Don and his visionary leadership.


Reed Tuckson, MD, gave a plenary address on the future of healthcare and hospice, exhorting all of us to continue to be activists on behalf of the seriously ill and dying in America. His observations were challenging, even frightening at times, but ultimately hopeful.  He said, “We will not be able to “medicalize” our way out of this tsunami of chronic illness and spiraling healthcare costs; it will take a focus on humanity and empathy throughout our society to focus beyond the mere “science” of illness”. Dr. Tuckson urged us to consider this quote by Atul Gwande, MD: “As physicians we see a lot of pain, and in order to function and make rational decisions, we have to filter some of it out…But, perhaps the greatest challenge of caring empathetically for the dying arises from the question: What does empathy look like when it has been stripped of hope?”


Being together with my colleagues and the community of hospice and palliative care providers last week was both inspiring and humbling because each and every day they are the ones who continue to find ways to offer love and care for the dying, offering them hope in the midst of their pain. What a privilege for me to be in this field with like-minded, passionate people who provide care for not only the physical needs of the dying but who are equally committed to caring for their humanity.

Bless you all



NHPCO Gala 2016 Patti Moore and Don Schumacher CEO National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

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 April is National Volunteer month, a time when we celebrate all those incredible people who so generously give of their time and talents to serve those in need.  I am reminded of the founders of our hospice movement who 30-40 years ago decided they wanted to improve the lives of the dying people and their loved ones and created Hospice in America.  It was a grass roots effort in large part by volunteers.  Now, 40 years later millions of dying people have the benefit of this extraordinary care called Hospice.  Thank a volunteer when you see one today, they are in large part what differentiates hospice from other Medicare providers.  Volunteers are the ones who bring the humanity into this sacred work.


For a wonderful story of a volunteer's encounter with a patient, read "Leonard’s Story" on my blog written by a friend Heidi O’Neil who is a volunteer at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN.


One of the most beautiful events in the south this time of year is:

Big Bend Hospice and Tallahassee Nurseries' "Spring Fling Under a Vineyard Moon" May 12, 2016  Fabulous Food & Wines from Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Italy, Burgundy, Sonoma Valley, Spain, Germany, Australia and South Africa. More than 750 Tallahassee area citizens will gather for an evening of incredible food, exotic beverages, unique entertainment and spirited conversation at one of the most magical settings anywhere in an event that has become a Tallahassee classic.

I love this story of kids supporting hospice:

Sixth-Graders 'Pay it Forward' for Hospice of Western Reserve in Cleveland, OH.

Three 6th grade boys decided on Hospice of Western Reserve’s David Simpson Hospice House to focus their “Pay it Forward” class project.  The location held a special meaning for Nico Tartaglia, 12, who had several relatives stay at the house, including a beloved grandfather. "I had three relatives pass away here," Nico said. "My grandfather died here two years ago.". 
“That's why we selected it," Finnegan (Finn) Fretter, 11,  said. He, along with Andrew Theilman, 12, understood the emotional connection Nico had to the hospice house and the meaning behind selecting the location as a donation site.  "Many people have had bad things happen, and the idea of helping others was heartwarming," Finnegan said.


Next week I'll be in Phoenix, AZ attending the annual Kaiser Philanthropy Institute meeting with people from across the US who are engaged in leading edge philanthropy.  Each year they convene people doing unusual things—people who dream, attempt, and accomplish the remarkable. It takes place May 1-3, 2016. For many organizations, participation in this philanthropy institute is the single most transformative element in their ability to attain dramatic breakthroughs and leaps in thinking related to philanthropy and generosity.


There will be 15 representatives from hospices in attendance along with leaders and board members from major healthcare systems and hospital philanthropy departments.  I have the privilege of leading the morning discussions among the hospice attendees. It should be exciting and enlightening.


Original Native American art

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