In previous columns we've talked about some of the benefits of hospice care for terminally ill patients. I'm guessing more than a few of you may have thought "That's great. I wish we could afford it."
One of the most important things I want people to know is that you CAN afford it. Lack of money should never prevent anyone from considering hospice care because most insurance plans now include a hospice benefit, as do Medicare and Medicaid.
"That's good, but I don't have any insurance at all right now. What can I do?" Take a deep breath. Relax. We'll work with you. High Peaks Hospice & Palliative Care will never turn away anyone because of inability to pay. Dignity, comfort and peace at the end of life are basic human rights, not luxuries.
Insurance reimbursement covers the bulk of hospice operating expenses. There is a popular misconception that hospice receives government funding but that is not true. The remaining unreimbursed expenses and expenses for uninsured patients must be met through a variety of fundraising efforts.
The current economic climate has impacted fundraising for most non-profit agencies in the last couple of years. Many people have less discretionary money for charitable giving at a time when needs are increasing. Despite this, our North Country communities have recognized the vital nature of hospice services in an enlightened world and continue to respond with great generosity.
The vast and rugged 4,600-square-mile service area covered by High Peaks Hospice & Palliative Care offers special challenges, the most recent of which is a result of rising gasoline prices due to political unrest in the Middle East. Patient visits involve an astounding monthly mileage cost. Yet the very nature of the work is about hospice going to the patient, not the other way around. That is one reason why fundraising will be more important than ever in 2011.
I believe the true measure of a society is the way it treats its most vulnerable members. History is filled with examples of harsh and uncaring attitudes toward the sick and dying. I like to think most of that was a result of ignorance rather than malice. I like to think that, as time passes, we grow in understanding and compassion. And I also like to think that our modern hearts and minds more readily accept responsibility for the welfare of our friends and neighbors. In fact, I constantly see evidence of that here in the Adirondack North Country where there is a longstanding tradition of neighbor helping neighbor.
So, if you are concerned about a loved one or if you, yourself, are facing the challenge of a terminal diagnosis and don't know where to turn, the message here today is that you are not alone. There is a caring community of hospice professionals who have the skill, compassion and resources to help you and your family through this difficult time, regardless of your financial situation. There is also a caring and compassionate community of your North Country neighbors whose unselfish contributions make this possible. No, you are not alone.