Former Pres. Jimmy Carter’s hospice transition brings awareness to health service

A hospice nurse practitioner at Providence Health says hospice care is more than preparing for the inevitable.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:23 AM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV)—Former President Jimmy Carter’s decision to go into hospice care is shining a light on what that kind of care is all about, and Providence Health is helping the public understand what hospice care actually means and offers.

Aimee Cama is a hospice nurse practitioner at Providence Health and said the term is more than just the end of life for a loved one. She said it provides holistic care that makes a patient and their family feel comfortable in the final part of their lives.

“When people are on service rather days or weeks or months, we really see people benefiting in terms of their quality of life, in terms of their symptom management, physical symptoms, they may be having at that time when their illness is very severe,” Cama said.

At Providence Health, their hospice program adds a spiritual component to their care and other complimentary services to help a patient feel comfortable. There’s also a foundation fund that can step in and help relieve other life stressors.

“For example, if a person in hospice is unable to pay rent, the foundation service has actually been able to help people pay for rent,” Cama said.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s 2022 report, Oregon ranks sixth in the country for the number of people on Medicare using hospice as a form of care. Cama said Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice services and most private insurance companies do too. But having that conversation about the transition to hospice can be harder than finding funds for the care.

“These are difficult conversations,” Cama said. “It’s always important to be curious and to really listen and inquire how someone’s feeling, their fears are, and what their hopes are.”

Cama has a personal connection to being a hospice nurse. She said her father passed away suddenly at an early age and there was never a sense of closure. So she wants to provide that feeling of closure and comfort to families through her work.

“End of life is often a sad time, but it’s also a really scary time,” Cama said. “It’s honorable to be able to spend time with people through their last days, weeks, or months and to see the closure that patients and families have.”