The History of Hospice and Namaste Hospice

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There are many misconceptions about hospice. It is often misunderstood and this results in hospice services being underutilized.

The word “hospice” was derived from the Latin word hospes, which means both “guest” and “host.” Dating back to the 11th century, the concept of hospice referred to a place of hospitality for not only travelers and pilgrims but also for the sick and dying. Today, Hospice is not a place at all, it is a philosophy of care.  End-of-life care can take place wherever a patient calls home. While there are hospice houses and inpatient hospice units, it makes up only 4.8% of hospice care in the United States. 

Dame Cicely Saunders was a nurse working with terminally ill patients. She became a physician and in 1963 started talking about what end-of-life care could really look like. She gave a talk at Yale University and she talked about what specialized care for the dying could look like. She focused on comfort care (palliative care) rather than treatments and focusing only on a cure.

During this talk, Dr. Saunders presented pictures of terminally ill cancer before and after receiving hospice care.  The difference in the patients’ appearance and overall wellbeing was astonishing. This one talk began the discussion of end-of-life care in the United States.  

In 1972, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross testified before the US Senate Special Committee on Aging about the right to die with dignity. This included the right to make decisions about one’s end-of-life care and to die at home.

Dr. Kubler-Ross is well known in the hospice community, and many hospice workers enjoy reading her work. She helped pave the way to hospice as we know it today.

In 1974 the first hospice was founded in the United States. In 1982, the Medicare Hospice Benefit was created, and in 1983 the four levels of care of hospice were created and published. However, it wasn’t until the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (“COBRA ‘85”) which made the hospice benefit permanent. Another big year in hospice history is 1996 when the national hospice organization published medical guidelines for determining prognosis in selected non-cancer disease. Since this time the benefit has changed and the regulations surrounding hospice care have become more structured and stricter. In 2017 1.49 million Medicare beneficiaries received hospice care.

Namaste Hospice was founded in 1998 by a group of professionals who wanted to ensure that everyone in the Denver community had access to high-quality end-of-life care.  You could often find this team providing end-of-life care under bridges for those who were homeless, in nursing homes, and large mansions. They provided high-quality care to everyone who qualified for hospice services.

Namaste is a Sanskrit greeting that has a few meanings, one is “the light in me honors the light in you”. The thought process around choosing this name is honoring each person in their end-of-life journey and meeting them where they are. While the Namaste team is extremely experienced with end-of-life care we believe that you are the one with expertise in your life or your loved one’s life. We need to meet you where you are on this journey so we can join you and walk alongside you.

To learn more about the hospice benefit, or about Namaste please call us today. 303-720-3578

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