President Carter, choosing a hospice quality of life

After a series of short hospital stays, the former president says he would like to spend what time he has left at home.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 11:06 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It was in 1978 that the National Hospice Organization was established. Its first national conference was held in Washington D.C. Jimmy Carter was President when the hospice movement took off and became a national discussion.        

Now, 45 years later, President Carter has asked for Hospice care.        

Dr. Kelly Klein says that means a lot. She is the director of the Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship program at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

“I was so glad that not only was he getting to benefit but that he made it public knowledge too,” Dr. Klein said       

President Carter joined a study 8 years ago to test a drug to see if it could stall his advanced melanoma. He has been cancer free for many years since. Now, at age 98, after a series of short hospital stays, he says he would like to spend what time he has left at home. Dr. Klein says she hopes President Carter’s personal choice for hospice care will have an impact on other families facing end-of-life decisions.

She says, “There are a lot of myths about that (hospice) and maybe that will help some people to know that if it’s a good thing for President Carter, maybe it’s a good thing for my family too.”          

She says Hospice doesn’t just treat the patient, but the caregivers and family too. Even though it is considered end-of-life care, Dr. Klein encourages families to not wait too late to learn what hospice can offer. 

She explains, ‘’We think the earlier we get involved as a hospice team, the better. It takes time to get to know the patient, may take several weeks, and if we get called in the last few days, the patient doesn’t get the full benefit we’ve got available.”

The full benefit can include nursing care, medical equipment and supplies, drugs to manage pain, physical and occupational therapy, homemaker and social services, spiritual care, and hospice volunteers have even cared for a beloved pet.  With all that closer attention, feeling happier at home, and the right medication sometimes patients improve under hospice care.

Dr. Klein says, “We love that. We celebrate that. We graduated from hospice!”         

Then, later, if their health declines, she adds, they can go back into hospice care.         

Dr. Klein says studies have shown that most patients would prefer to pass away at home than in a hospital. President Carter is a good example of that. He is choosing now to improve his quality of life (for whatever time he has left) by spending it at home with Rosalynn, his wife of 76 years.