You may have heard about Jeopardy host Alex Trebec’s announcement this year that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It’s a devastating disease, with only about a 9% relative five-year survival rate for those at any stage of the disease, and an even more dismal 3% five-year survival rate for those in a late stage like Trebec, according to the American Cancer Society.
While surgery may not be viable for someone in such a late stage of the disease, Trebec, 78, has vowed to fight hard to beat it. CBS News reported that chemotherapy and radiation may still be viable treatments. Symptom management through palliative care will also play a key role for him, as it does for tens of thousands of other cancer patients and millions of people with other debilitating diseases. Continue reading
Politico’s “The Agenda” section has published a special report on Medicare, now and in the future, and how it might fare in the current political climate. Baby boomers are weighing the system to the breaking point, and this series looks at the current threats and at the ideas being proposed to rescue the social welfare program for seniors. Continue reading
Death is not something most people want to think about, let alone read about in the local newspaper. Reporting on end-of-life issues takes sensitivity, sound editorial judgement, patience and tenacity to develop relationships with patients and families, to share their stories and for them to allow a virtual stranger into their lives during such an intimate time.
Luanne Rife, health reporter at The Roanoke Times, not only wrote extensively about these issues, she gave readers a close-up view of the process through intimate and memorable profiles. Continue reading
Photo: Defining Hope film
You wouldn’t necessarily expect a documentary about end-of-life issues to be uplifting. But at the premiere of a new film about the topic, the audience smiled and laughed. At other times, they fought back tears. Many mentioned a resolve to start talking about their wishes and goals. Continue reading
More than a quarter of older Medicare beneficiaries have yet to document their advance care planning (ACP) wishes, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Latinos, African-Americans, those with lower education levels and people with lower incomes were at greatest risk of not discussing or carrying out ACP.
That leaves many people subject to receiving end of life care that they may not want and may go against their values and wishes, according to Alexander Smith, M.D., senior study author and an associate professor of medicine, geriatrics and palliative care at UCSF. Continue reading
Until the 1920s, most Americans died relatively quickly and at home, surrounded by things and people – including their minister, priest or rabbi – they knew and who knew them. And, because they died where they lived, and among those who cared for them, the fear, pain, relief and release that death brought was common knowledge.
Today, however, death and the dying process are a mystery to most Americans. Only rarely, and usually in a crisis situation, do we get a peek behind the curtain at the anger, fear, pain, guilt, yearning, etc., that dying people experience, whether they are being cared for in a health care facility or at home. Continue reading