When many people think about hospice, they think about death, but hospice doesn’t just focus on death. Dr. Richard Brittingham, a local medical director for hospice, said they try to make their patient’s last days and months on earth the best that they can be.

Dr. Brittingham wanted to explain it by looking at his life.

“I know that I’m going to die one day,” he said. “And I don’t want to have a lot of pain at the time of my death, and I don’t want to have a lot of fear and anxiety. I don’t want to have shortness of breath. I want that time to be a peaceful time for me.”

Giving peace is what he said hospice is supposed to do not only for the patient but for their family too. But, when should they be called in to help?

“I’d say six months,” Dr. Brittingham said. “But at least give us 30 days of work with the patient and the family.”

In his 25 years working as a Medical Director for Hospice, he’s seen that’s not always the case. Dr. Brittingham said sometimes they’re called in days — if not hours before someone dies.

“We need to get patients earlier in the course of their disease, earlier in their course of life really,” he said. “So, that we can make some kind of a fundamental difference for them between dying in pain or agony versus dying peacefully.”

Hospice isn’t only supposed to help the person dying.

“Hospice is designed to try and help the family reach a place of surrender to what is essentially an inedible act, and that would be the death of their loved one,” he said.

Dr. Brittingham said someone can get hospice by going through their physician or calling hospice directly.