National Home Care and Hospice Month in November is when we honor all professionals who work in the broad field of home care and hospice work – this includes physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, physical therapists, and so much more. There are four types of hospice care: routine home care, continuous home care, general inpatient care, and respite care. Each requires a different skillset and comes with its own emotional and physical demands. Despite studies showing quite a high private home care value in the United States, the professionals who perform these services often receive very little pay, yet are committed to helping patients live and pass away with dignity. This month is for them.
History of National Home Care and Hospice Month
Home care and hospice professions have their roots in 1963 when Dame Cicely Saunders gave a lecture at Yale University on the idea of specialized care for those at the end of their lives. Only two years later, Dr. Saunders was invited to become faculty by the Dean of Yale School of Nursing, Florence Wald.
Dr. Saunders went on to establish the first hospice center, St. Christopher’s Hospice, in the UK in 1967. Florence Wald took a sabbatical to observe and work in the center two years later. In 1974, she founded Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Connecticut. In this same year, the first legislation was introduced to provide federal funds for hospice programs, though it did not pass.
Part of this legislation was spurred on by On Death and Dying, a book written by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that outlined the last stages of life for the terminally ill in a whole new way. In 1972, she testified in front of the Senate in an effort to secure rights for the terminally ill to choose their end-of-life care and to die with dignity.
Hospice care was taking off. In 1975, the first National Symposium on Hospice Care was convened in Connecticut, and in 1979 the National Hospice Organization (NHO) was established to promote hospice care as a concept. 1982 saw big gains for hospice care as Congress passed a provision to create a Medicare hospice benefit, and the NHO’s first television PSA was aired. In 1992, the National Hospice Foundation was established.
At the turn of the 21st century, the NHF launched a series of public service campaign TV ads, which won awards. A PBS series was launched, focusing on end of life care. In 2002, the 25th anniversary of the Medicare Hospice Benefit was celebrated, and the Department of Veteran’s affairs launched an effort to increase veterans’ access to hospice.
In the 2010s, great strides for hospice workers were made. Coordinated ad campaigns to promote the profession were launched, legislation to increase hospice benefits and hospice accessibility were introduced and passed, and important anniversaries and figures in the hospice effort were commemorated. Yet still, today hospice workers are not or barely paid a living wage, and the demand for these professions far outnumbers the number of certified professionals. These angels deserve this month of celebration!
National Home Care and Hospice Month timeline
1.5 million people tuned in to the informational video series “The Basics of Hospice,” created by the Hospice Action Network’s digital Legislative Action Center.
The US Postal Service introduces a commemorative stamp to honor hospice workers.
Congress’ Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 included a provision for a Medicare hospice benefit.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying, outlined the 5 stages that terminally ill patients will progress through, and included over 500 patient interviews. She would go on to argue before the Senate for the terminally ill to be able to decide about staying at home and end-of-life care.
After studying the positive effects of hospice care on terminally ill patients, Dr. Cicely Saunders established the first hospice center in the UK.
National Home Care and Hospice Month FAQs
Are there other National holidays honoring caregivers?
Home Care Aide Week takes place during the second full week of November!
When is National Home Care and Hospice Month observed?
Throughout the month of November.
Where is National Home Care and Hospice Month observed?
The United States.
How to Celebrate National Home Care and Hospice Month
Celebrate hospice professionals
There are endless ways to make the lives of hospice workers just a little bit more fun. This could include catering a meal, giving out awards or thank-you cards, holding a “Caregivers Night Out” and volunteering to look after their children, or just taking to social media to shout out a caregiver who has made a difference in your life or the life of a family member.
Promote awareness of issues for hospice workers
Like so many essential workers, home care, and hospice workers are drastically underpaid. Every day, these individuals drive for miles to ensure the health of those they look after, and the cleanliness of their homes - and that’s the easy part. Hospice work can be extremely emotionally and physically demanding, as individuals often need an extreme amount of care, and the workers must watch them endure difficult situations. Today, use your voice and advocate for these workers to receive better pay and appreciation.
Visit a loved one in hospice
Though hospice and home care professionals deserve the spotlight on this day, those who require care at the end of their lives or through a difficult illness deserve extra love as well. Use today as a reminder to celebrate the individuals in your life who are in hospice by bringing them flowers and sitting and talking with them.
5 Things We Should Know About Home Health Care And Hospices
Unpaid Hospice Workers
Over 15 million Americans become unpaid caregivers for the elderly or disabled.
By 2025, there will be 1 billion seniors in the world - many of whom will require hospice or home care. While the senior population will quadruple by then, the population of caregivers is only set to double.
Below Minimum Wage
As of 2016, the whole of the caregiver workforce earns a median hourly wage of just $9.25 - agencies keep 60-70% of the patient’s payments as agency fees.
Approximately 12,000 home care and hospice agencies exist in the United States, up from 6,800 in 2001.
Technology is Revolutionizing Home Care
Technology is increasingly used by home care workers to track things like medication and vital signs, as well as offer telemedicine and up-to-date care plans.
Why We Love National Home Care and Hospice Month
Home Care provides dignity for many
Home care and hospice workers believe that those at the end of their lives deserve the right to pass peacefully and on their own terms. The elderly often far prefer to stay in the comfort of their homes, where they feel freer and are at less risk of contracting other illnesses. The existence of home care makes this level of freedom available to many who otherwise would not have had it.
This month gives us a chance to improve caregivers’ lives
These professionals dedicate physical, emotional, and mental energy to each one of the individuals in their care, and often deal with the emotional fallout when the terminally ill take a turn for the worst or pass away. Besides, many caregivers drive long hours to visit each of their patients, and often don’t even make $15/hour. We all should pitch in to ease these burdens!
It proves the healing power of the home and loved ones
The elderly who wish to retain the freedom of staying in their home and ending their lives on their own terms experience true psychological benefits. Their comfortable surroundings allow them to end their lives with a sense of dignity, which is incredibly valuable. In fact, home care harkens back to older days, when tending to the terminally ill at home was the standard. There’s always the added benefit of being closer to their loved ones in their final days.
National Home Care and Hospice Month dates