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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Care and Comfort


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This past week, we marked the passing of Carol Griffee, a long-time fixture of Arkansas journalism known for her tenacious but fair reporting. For years, her beat was the State Capitol. She was always well-versed in the stories she covered, interested in every detail and passionate about getting to the heart of the matter.

Carol spent her final days in hospice care, a service she both appreciated, and in her usual manner, sought to discuss and improve. One of her final acts was to request an ad-hoc meeting of state leaders who oversee hospice care to further that discussion. Her friends are continuing that effort and counting on seeing it move forward.

Hospice care is an important element in Arkansas's complete health-care system. Just as our education system provides opportunities at all stages of life, so should our health-care system provide the best available options for care from birth to end of life. As we work to find new cures and treatments that lengthen and improve the quality of life of every Arkansan, we also want to provide comfort to those who are in their final days. It is an uncomfortable subject for many, but an important one nonetheless.

Hospice care is provided by physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, clergy and volunteers through the Arkansas Department of Health's local health units in many counties around the state. These skilled professionals work as teams to bring physical, emotional and spiritual comfort to terminally-ill patients, surrounded and supported by family and friends.

The goal of hospice is to prevent and relieve suffering and to improve the quality of life for patients with life-threatening illnesses and for their families. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death, focusing instead on providing pain relief to the terminally ill, as well as counseling and assistance to the families. These efforts give patients the opportunity to live their final days fully, and offer their loved ones resources to cope with their grief.

Hospice is primarily a concept of care and not a specific place of care. Most of the time, hospice care is provided in the patient's home. Coming directly to the patient allows providers to help in the most comfortable setting possible. When needed, patients can also be cared for in dedicated hospice facilities. Hospice teams include their clients in planning decisions, ensuring that emotional, spiritual and practical support is given based on the patient's wishes and the family's needs.

Hospice is an integral part of America's health-care system, with one-third of terminally ill patients availing themselves of this support service every year, and it's covered by most insurance policies. If you or someone you know needs more information about hospice care or other services available for terminally-ill patients, please contact the Arkansas Department of Health or your local health unit.

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