PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
November 18, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Department of Health Commemorates National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

In observance of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and to mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of the first hospice in the United States, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd commends the work of palliative care and hospice services providers throughout the Garden State and encourages New Jerseyans to plan ahead for the treatment and care they would prefer near the end of life.

Bringing the topic of end-of-life care into the national discourse and raising public understanding of the hospice mission to help patients and their families deal with advanced illness have been the focus of the hospice community since the first hospice opened its doors in Connecticut in 1974.

Today New Jersey is home to 76 licensed hospice providers serving all 21 counties. They deliver compassionate, supportive care recognizing that the vast majority of Americans want to be able to die in their own homes, as comfortable and pain free as possible.

"Serious illnesses and end-of-life care raise difficult and emotional issues that families are often reluctant to discuss," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "But some of the hardships that come with making difficult health care decisions can be alleviated by making plans in advance and documenting requests so that dignity and autonomy can be honored in the future. Thanksgiving gatherings offer an opportunity to begin or review family discussions that clarify each individual's wishes and personal care preferences."

Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer, or a chronic illness that causes pain. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment. Hospice and palliative care programs provide services to terminally ill patients in the home or at a health care facility, including medical, nursing, social work and volunteer and counseling services. Hospices provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support, and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible.

The Department has a comprehensive website dedicated to Palliative and End of Life Care at www.nj.gov/health/advancedirective. It includes advance directive forms, educational materials, toolkits for completing an advance directive and links to web sites with additional information on hospice and palliative care. Advance Directives are an important tool to document preferences for care when an individual can no longer communicate.

The New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Hospital Association have developed POLST - Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment - a statewide program to empower individuals to make decisions regarding their medical care at the end of life. New Jersey's POLST law, signed by Governor Chris Christie in 2011, features a form designed to be completed jointly by an individual and a physician or advance practice nurse, detailing the individual's goals of care and medical preferences. It may be used to complement an Advanced Directive. For more information and to download the form, visit https://nj.gov/health/advancedirective/polst.shtml.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) a nonprofit organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end-of-life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for patients with terminal illnesses in America and their loved ones.

Medicare and Medicaid, as well as most private insurers, cover hospice services. For a complete listing of licensed hospice programs in New Jersey, go to www.state.nj.us/health/healthfacilities/search.shtml.

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Last Reviewed: 11/18/2014