Harlem Hospice Education Program Overcomes Barriers

Advance_Care_Planning1Planning for end-of-life care is a difficult conversation for families to have, especially when they lack access to basic information about hospice care and other services available for their terminally ill loved ones.

In honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month (November), the Project HOPE: a program recently launched by The Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) in Harlem that is designed to overcome these barriers within the African American and Black communities and connect families with comfort-oriented care that is focused on pain relief, symptom management, and emotional support.

Even though hospice is considered one of the most comprehensive and quality models of care available for people with advanced terminal illness, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) Facts and Figures on Hospice Care, in 2011 only 8.5% of the patients in hospice identified themselves as being African American/Black. Caucasians comprised more than 82.8% of the hospice population.

Project HOPE is addressing cultural and institutional barriers in Harlem that prohibit residents, patients and providers from accessing Hospice Care by:

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  1. )  Gaining information on knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors among medical and health practitioners, patients and the faith-based community regarding hospice
  2. ) Strengthening collaborative relationships with Harlem healthcare institutions, such as Harlem Hospital, to improve outreach and access to hospice
  3. ) Increasing awareness about Hospice through social media and publicity efforts
  4. ) Establishing strategies for addressing the psychosocial barriers and myths regarding Hospice through the creation of an Advanced Illness Counseling Support hotline in Harlem.

Studies show that minorities, specifically African Americans and Blacks severely underutilize hospice services due to many barriers to care.

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