|Bringing hospice care to the underserved|
|Thursday, 02 February 2012 12:01|
Pain and illness can prompt a wide range of responses in individuals. But too many senior citizens among the African-American community choose to bear their pain in silence.
"Elderly African Americans tend to be stoic and endure their pain privately," says Deborah Mizell, community liaison for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of Broward County. "They often internalize their pain and just don't talk about it."
The cultural silence surrounding pain and disease is just one reason why there remains an end-of-life care gap among the African-American and Caribbean communities. In Florida, a disproportionate number of African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color never receive appropriate end-of-life care, and never utilize their hospice coverage from Medicare and Medicaid.
As we enter Black History Month, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care seeks to change this through the VITAS Access Initiative, a program dedicated to promoting public awareness about end-of-life care, particularly among South Florida's underserved communities, so that they have the information and access they need to make informed choices about end-of-life care.
Thinking nationally, acting locally
Established more than 30 years ago, VITAS has been providing end-of-life care needs for diverse and traditionally underserved communities across the United States. Understanding the unique end-of-life care needs of different cultures, VITAS innovative Hospice Care provides healthcare practitioners with specialized training on the unique needs of people from all cultures and social backgrounds.
Through the VITAS Access Initiative, VITAS shares their years of knowledge and professional experience with the diverse members of Broward County. VITAS community liaisons visit churches, schools, community centers, hospitals and health clinics to provide hospice education to the public and to help people better understand their options in end-of-life care. They also host workshops, deliver presentations and offer literature about the benefits of hospice services. Overall the initiative seeks to create a secure, comfortable space to ask the difficult questions about preparing for end-of life care.
As community liaison for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of Broward County, Deborah Mizell has worked in hospice care for ten years, reaching out to the African American community in Broward County.
"I reach out wherever we think there might be gaps in the community in terms of information about, access to and understanding of hospice care," says Mizell.
The VITAS Access Initiative now joins Deborah Mizell in her efforts, expanding her message to promote public awareness about end-of-life issues among the Haitian, Hispanic and Veteran's communities. The different backgrounds of the liaison group also reflect the unique cultural make-up of the communities here in South Florida.
"We must move beyond the inequities in healthcare to improve access to all medical services, including palliative and hospice care," says Mizell. "This will allow individuals and their families to choose their own path when making life's final journey. When cure is no longer possible, everyone is entitled to dignity, respect and comfort."
|Last Updated on Friday, 03 February 2012 15:35|