With the ‘End Game’ in Sight

Last month the viewing public received its first glimpse of a NetFlix-produced documentary titled “End Game” in a short trailer. The 40-minute documentary, now in full release, highlights the stories of a number of individuals, how they handle their current life and contemplate death in the all-to-near future. Thus, an intense light is shed on the world of end-of-life treatment.

End Game Insight

end gameOftentimes, the discussion of hospice is a difficult and crucial conversation, and should and needs to take place long before this type of care is necessary. It’s a talk that many are not ready emotionally to have when faced with a dying parent, spouse, sibling or other family member.

As “End Game” opens with an iconic view of the San Francisco skyline, we meet the healthcare team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. This group knows the benefits of palliative and hospice care are priceless and how to best explain the whys to patients and families.

The documentary takes on the challenge so many in hospice face: the misconception that hospice means and equals death. According to Steven Pantilat, MD, physician and distinguished professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at UCSF Medical Center, “I think it is healthy people who think about how they want to die and sick people who think about know how they want to live.”

“Two people can have the same disease and even same circumstance. But one person takes everything in stride and the other person just can’t accommodate the illness or diagnosis,” said Zen Hospice Project’s visionary BJ Miller, MD. From his viewpoint, Dr. Miller believes when people stop holding onto the way life used to be, eyes are opened to a new understanding, and patients can then let go over suffering. “I think of suffering like a gap or a wedge. It’s a gap between the world you want and the world you have. That to me sums up suffering very nicely.”

At Zen Hospice Project, people are encouraged to not run away from life’s difficult moments and the “hard stuff.”

Sometimes the introduction of palliative care is a concept that patients and families can handle as a stepping stone to hospice. Kym Anderson, a patient featured in “End Game” shared, “Hospice has a label of … that’s it, and palliative care keeps you well as long as possible. It helps you transition to hospice. In my career in nursing for 40 years, I saw patients come into the hospital and die. That’s not how I want to do it. I want to stay home.”

Familial Disagreement

Many times when patients hear the devastating news about their disease and life expectancy, they are unable to fully grasp and understand the information. And then if you add to the mix a difference of opinion between patient and loved ones, end-of-life care can prove to be even more stressful.

There are quite a number of people who have misinformation when it comes to hospice. (Learn the truth about hospice here.) Family members fear their loved ones’ quality of life will be lessened if hospice is called in, as viewers witness in “End Game.” Additionally, they feel hospice is giving up and not fighting back to stay alive.

Hospice and palliative care can help patients make the most of life. “We help people live as well as possible for as long as possible,” Dr. Pantilat emphasized. “Doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains work together to help the whole person with symptoms, answer questions and provide physical, psychological and spiritual support for the patient and family.

“Some patients want to be home with their families and receive good care there without any more treatment. That’s okay and a very legitimate decision,” continued Dr. Pantilat. “And there are others in such a situation who will say ‘if there’s a medicine that might make my symptoms a little better and allow me to live a few more weeks, I would like to give it a try.’”

Fear of the Unknown

end gIn “End Game,” Dr. Miller gave one of his patients an assignment: Make friends with death. “I have failed my assignment. I love to live,” confessed Thekla Hammond. In response to Thekla, Dr. Miller suggested what might work is to create a relationship with death. “Just so it is less scary than this unknown thing in the closet that we never look at, never see and never touch.” And Thekla agreed, “What is scary is the unknown and what you can’t control.”

Each patient and family dynamic situation is different. There is no right or wrong answer for end-of-life care.  Particularly insightful was a comment made by Pat Harris when she was interviewed at Zen Hospice Project, “What is important to me is to take each day at a time. Each moment is a gift. You are still here and that in and of itself is a gift.”

At Chapters Health System and its affiliatesGood Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to info@chaptershealth.org.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.

More Insight from Featured Physician

Although his name and face might be new to some, Dr. Steven Pantilat might be familiar to others who have read his book, “Life After the Diagnosis.” Within the pages of his book, he expands many of the same concepts briefly touched upon within “End Game.”

On Tuesday, July 10 at 9 a.m.LifePath Hospice kicks off the Life Reads Book Club and picked Dr. Pantilat’s book as its first selection. The event will take place at Barnes & Noble in Carrollwood located at 11802 N. Dale Mabry Highway. Created for the community, this club features books that highlight life encounters with illness and aging — especially from a caregiver’s perspective.

The discussion of “Life After the Diagnosis” will be led by Ashleigh Kirsten, RN, and Tracey Ward, both professional relations representatives with LifePath Hospice.

For more information, please contact Ashleigh at 813.394.3231.

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