By Margaret Cogswell
CEO of Hospice of the Panhandle
As a nurse and hospice provider I have always recognized the need to have good medical care. I’ve had my check-ups and recommended screening tests since I was in my 20s. As I think back over that time, I’ve noticed the changes in those visits. I can recall a physician who told me once that he used to get upset when a patient or family member came to see him with a handful of research they had done, seeming to question his expertise. He quickly shared how that had changed over time and now he was disappointed if the patient and family had not done some research. His observation made me think about how much more I valued the conversations I had with my healthcare providers when we shared our knowledge and understanding, when we had a dialogue instead of a lecture.
As we celebrate National Hospice and Palliative Care Month in November, I find myself reflecting on how hospice and palliative care is always a dialogue. Understanding what a patient and family want and need is the starting place for our care because if we don’t start where our patients needs and desires are, we are unlikely to help them reach their goals.
Not that it’s simple or easy. I recall when my mother would tell me she felt “wobbly.” She wasn’t dizzy, or unsteady on her feet. Wobbly was the only word she could find to describe how she didn’t feel right. She didn’t need something for motion sickness or a walker but after careful consideration she benefited from a change in her blood pressure medication.
Sometimes meeting someone where they are means accepting a home with lots of animals, or caregivers who seem to need as much help as the patient. And that’s where hospice and palliative care begin to do. However, understanding what is important, what the patient wants help with and how we can make a real impact on how someone lives – the way they want to, where they want to, with whom they want to live – is equally important.
Just as my own experience of healthcare has changed over the years, so has our hospice. We listen first and learn from our patients and families. We recognize that we are a team with our patient and family as integral members of that group. While we celebrate again this year as we have in years past, but we also reflect on all we have learned by meeting people where they are.
And we are all better for this evolution in our healthcare.
Margaret Cogswell is the CEO of Hospice of the Panhandle, where she has worked for more than three decades. To learn more about hospice care, call (304) 264-0406 or visit us the web at www.hospiceotp.org