We must do better in end-of-life care: Mary Foti

Guest columnist Mary Foti is a member of the Board of Trustees of Hospice of the Western Reserve Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity that engages with community leaders who share the mission of l not-for-profit organization to alleviate suffering and advocate for dignity and choice at the end of life. The foundation supports the many programs offered by HWR that are not reimbursed by insurance. These include a specialist pediatric palliative care team, pre-hospice palliative care, community bereavement support services, music and art therapy, Pet Peace of Mind® and more. To support HWR’s mission in the community, visit hospicewr.org/donate.

When my mother died of breast cancer almost 10 years ago, I was amazed at the lack of communication surrounding end-of-life care from her doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. .

It was an unnecessarily confusing and frightening experience. She died in an intensive care unit, just days after receiving what turned out to be her last chemotherapy treatment.

Because she had refused palliative care (a fact that we, her family, did not know at the time), her medical team was legally obligated to continue treating her illness until her death.

She had a living will and a power of attorney for health, but because these were not transferred with her electronic medical records from the emergency room to the hospital where she was admitted, these documents were ignored.

These are complex factors that I did not control at the time, but the loss of my mother affected me deeply. I have sworn to get involved in efforts to increase understanding of the benefits and mission of hospice.

I am thrilled to serve on the inaugural board of the Hospice of the Western Reserve Foundation because I want others to understand what hospice is, debunk myths about it, and educate the community about the services of HWR to patients and their families.

I lost both my parents to cancer. One of them (my father) received palliative care, and the other (my mother) did not. The difference in their death experiences was striking and profound.

My interest in the foundation is primarily one of advocacy and community education. As a society, we need to do better for those nearing the end of their lives and the people who love them.

I am also involved in an organization called FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, www.facingourrisk.org), a national non-profit organization that serves individuals and families who have had or are at risk for hereditary cancers (genetic mutations that have been linked to higher risks of certain cancers).

I myself had breast cancer almost 12 years ago and I carry a BRCA2 mutation. Through my volunteer work with FORCE, I’ve met many wonderful people who have died horrible deaths because they, their doctors, and/or their families didn’t want to have conversations about end-of-life care. life.

HWR’s work is so dear to me because it not only provides palliative and end-of-life care, but also offers caregiver support, bereavement services, and other programs.

This is a community resource that too many people don’t understand and that the medical community needs to embrace more fully.

Too many people end up in palliative care days or even hours before they die. This is due, in part, to the misconception that palliative care somehow hastens the dying process, or perhaps it is tantamount to giving up.

Neither is true.

It is important for the community to understand that in addition to providing end-of-life and palliative care, HWR celebrates the individual value of each life, strives to alleviate suffering, improve patient comfort, promote quality of life, promotes choice at the end of life. life care and supports effective grief.

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