It has been said that a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. The heroes in my life are the patients and families we care for and treat at my hospice agency.

As an assisted living facility owner, with specialization in residential board and care, and hospice administrator, I have had the opportunity to help patients and their families over the years. Some continue services longer than others, but they all have one thing in common: the desire to make the most out of their lives and to leave this earth with some sense of dignity. Being in the hospice business has taught me to value the life I live and to cherish my family and friends.

Many people think of hospice care as simply end-of-life care. The reality? Hospice is so much more than that. Seeking hospice services earlier, rather than later, allows families to begin to cope with the bereavement process. Terminally ill patients are able to stay in the comfort of their own home or place where they reside, wherever that may be, while they live out the rest of their days. In many instances, hospice services extend a patient’s life, giving them more time with family and friends.

I have seen patients lives extended by weeks, months and, occasionally, years, because their family sought hospice care sooner, rather than later. Not only did the patient live longer, but it was less of a financial burden on the family and the overall health care system. Terminally ill patients who aren’t on hospice are frequently in and out of the hospital, which ties up doctors and nurses from treating patients with urgent, but non-life threatening, conditions. Hospitals, like Riverside Community and Parkview Community, would have shorter wait times and patients would have more one-on-one time with their caregivers.

Having terminally ill patients and their families seek hospice earlier saves them money. There are no co-pays for services received. When patients are covered under Medicare or Medi-Cal, there is absolutely no out-of-pocket cost to the patient or their family. Most private insurances will cover up to 100 percent of the cost of hospice care, as opposed to a hospital visit.

Hospice care is more humane to the patient than hospital care, with more individualized attention. The patient is able to stay in the comfort of his or her own home, assisted living facility or other assisted living arrangement. They are still receiving the care they need from medical professionals, like having their medicine, medical equipment and supplies delivered to them.

Candy Chang said it best: “Preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.”

Hospice continues to monitor the family for up to 13 months after death to help with their healing process. We guide them through the mourning process to make sure they have time to heal. We encourage the family to remember their loved one while learning how to live their lives after their loved one’s passing.