By Cara Pace
As the CEO of United Hospice, I watched with the rest of the nation as former President Jimmy Carter announced he had entered hospice care in February. It was a poignant moment that impacted us all. People began to prepare for what many assumed would be an imminent goodbye, but nearly six months later, we find President Carter still living and cherishing precious moments with his loved ones in his Georgia home. His journey has led to a fresh conversation surrounding hospice care and end-of-life experiences.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that opting for hospice care means giving up. Jimmy Carter, at 99, is proving this to be far from the truth. Upon entering hospice care, many imagined him confined to a bed, but his story unfolds differently. Far from surrendering, he continues enjoying life’s simple pleasures, staying engaged with the world from his home, and spending quality time with his wife, Rosalynn. Even as his physical health declines, his mental sharpness remains, demonstrating that hospice care doesn’t signify an end to life, but a change in how it’s lived.
Another myth is that hospice care is only a short-term solution. Many believe it marks the final chapter in a person’s life, usually only days or hours before passing. However, this is not always the reality, as illustrated by President Carter’s extended stay in hospice. The average duration of hospice care extends to approximately 90 days, offering meaningful support and improved quality of life, regardless of the length of the journey.
The belief that entering hospice care will trigger a rapid decline in one’s health is another misconception. In fact, many patients, like Jimmy Carter, see an improvement in their quality of life when they step away from constant medical interventions. For some, like President Carter, in-home hospice is the preferred choice that allows for a dignified passing in the comfort of their own homes.
Hospice care has been proven to improve the quality of life for patients near the end of life. The decision to opt for hospice care, like that made by Jimmy Carter, emphasizes the importance of this approach in enhancing one’s remaining days. It is designed to manage discomfort, pain, and emotional struggles, focusing on the patient’s individual wishes and goals.
Despite the benefits, hospice care is often underutilized. We hope that Jimmy Carter’s journey will inspire others to consider this compassionate choice. Especially in New York, where Medicare utilization for hospice in 2022 was the lowest at 24.7% according to NHPCO, there is a need for greater awareness and access to hospice services.
Jimmy Carter’s experience is changing the way people think about hospice care, leading to more open conversations about this end-of-life decision. While it may not be the right choice for everyone, for those who choose it, hospice care can provide comfort, support, and quality of life when time matters most.
At United Hospice, we are proud to provide exceptional care for our patients. Our team is available 24/7, offering immediate over-the-phone triage services and dispatching nurses to patients’ homes at any time of the day. We dedicate an average of 28.3 minutes of nursing care per day for each patient, surpassing the national and New York state averages. We invite those considering hospice care to reach out to our experienced staff for guidance and support at 845.634.4974.
A Fitting Final Gift From Jimmy Carter (NYT)
How Jimmy Carter has changed the conversation around hospice (The Hill)
As Rosalynn turns 96, the Carters continue to defy the odds (The Washington Post)
Unexpected Months in Hospice Have Been ‘Meaningful’ to Jimmy Carter as He ‘Comes to the End,’ Grandson Says (People Magazine)