Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Monday, June 4, 2012


The day before Memorial Day Mary and I traveled 100 miles towards where I used to work, in Camarillo, California.  The company I worked for has moved all their personnel since I left, some to Indianapolis, the new headquarters and some to Newbury Park and Woodland Hills.
As it turned out my thoughts were less on the ten years I spent with WellPoint and more on the relationship Mary and I had with the woman who was being memorialized, Sandra Webster.

She and her husband, Ken, had been on the ship that transported us to our first tour as a Navy couple, to the Philippine Islands.  We got to be fast friends on the twenty-one day excursion and shared genuine sentiments when we landed, that we would look forward to seeing them on the base.

As our sponsors met us and escorted us to our quarters, you can picture our surprise as we met our new duplex neighbors, the Webster’s.

Ken was a fighter pilot with all the baggage that goes with that, including complete confidence and self-sufficiency. Two examples that come to mind are when he suggested that I use Crisco in my MG windshield wiper motor to make it run more smoothly.  When the rainy season ended and the temperature got in the 90’s the motor literally fried, causing a resale problem when we rotated home.  The second was when moisture condensed under the crystal of my Hong Kong purchased watch.  “Warm it gently over a light bulb”, was his suggestion, which did cause the moisture to dissipate, but also caused the entire crystal to leap from its housing with an audible “pop”.

In spite of that we became fast friends and remained in contact with occasional meetings for almost fifty years.

The last twenty provided fewer opportunities to meet because Sandra was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, an almost certain death notice.  Against all odds, Sandra beat her cancer with radiation and a reoccurrence of peri-tonsillar cancer with surgery in the radiated area.  The surgery perforated and for the last dozen years of her life she lived with a feeding bag.  She maintained a remarkably positive attitude toward life and saw her sons marry, enjoyed the birth of their children and even saw her grandson get sworn in as a Marine Officer by her husband.

Her last days were spent in Hospice and I found myself acutely aware that, even though my sister had used Hospice and several other friends from several other areas of the country used the services, I had no idea how arrangements were made or how they were paid for.

I found the subject to be much more complicated than I would have thought, and would recommend additional reading on the topic if you have a continued interest.  Wikipedia is a good place to start.  Having said that, I did find several items of interest:

·         Hospice in the United States started in earnest in 1971 when Hospice, Inc. was founded.

·         Hospice is greatly under-utilized, especially in the family support elements

·         Hospice in the U.S. depends greatly on volunteers, many of whom are the closest team members to the family and patient because they are seen more frequently and often are the source of respite care; freeing family caregivers from their accepted duties.

·         The distinction between Hospice and traditional care is that Hospice has a palliative focus, while traditional medicine is focused on cure and healing. Balance between the two by patient, family, and medical staff explains why most patients don’t enter Hospice until the final days of life, rather than using the six-month entitlement, which may be extended.

·         Hospice is primarily funded by Medicare, which accounts for about 72% of funding.  Medicaid and other insurance picks up 12%, and about 10% is funded from patients or other social agencies.

·         Hospice venues include hospitals, nursing homes, and dedicated hospice facilities as well as homes, and care may move from one venue to another through a course of treatment.

·         Hospice is dedicated to reducing pain: physical, spiritual, and social.  I have personally never heard a negative comment from anyone who has come in contact with hospice services.  In my own case, my father died of a massive stroke and my mother made her personal peace, quickly, in a nursing home, so they never used Hospice. My sister, on the other hand used the services for about ten days before she passed away on her living room couch, recently turned 65, the age of more than 80% of Hospice recipients. For more than a year, I received notice of support services for me, in my grief.

A subject that interests me that that a Chinese concern has just purchased AMC, which controls a bundle of the movie houses in the U.S.  What are they going to do with that?  Maybe my next post will provide insight.

Have any of you had experience with Hospice?  How did it work for you?  Write a comment to let me know.

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