Jimmy Carter Is Giving Us One Last Gift

Former president might change the way people view hospice care, writes doctor
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2023 7:56 AM CDT
Updated Sep 2, 2023 4:30 PM CDT
Jimmy Carter Is Giving Us One Last Gift
In this Sept. 15, 1966, photo, then-Georgia State Sen. Jimmy Carter with his wife, Rosalynn, at his Atlanta campaign headquarters.   (AP Photo/File)

Many people figured Jimmy Carter had only weeks, maybe even days, to live when he entered home hospice care back in February. Six months later, he remains in his Georgia home, still enjoying time with loved ones. With this, critical care physician Daniela J. Lamas writes in a New York Times essay that the 98-year-old Carter is bestowing a "fitting final gift" to Americans: He might change the way we view hospice care. Too often, families hear the word "hospice" and equate it with surrender, writes Lamas. She sees it in her job regularly, citing the example of a husband who immediately rejected the suggestion for his wife, who was fighting terminal cancer in her 50s.

"I tried to explain that this was not about 'giving up,' but about maximizing the quality of the time that she had," writes Lamas. The hospital could do little for her, but "all he could hear was a word that made him think of endings and loss." This mentality helps explain why hospice stays are so short in this nation, with half of them at 18 days or less. Lamas makes clear that hospice is not for everyone—it typically relies on family members to have the time, resources, and inclination to care for a dying loved one, which may be impossible for some. Still, for "an American public that has long been uncomfortable with our own mortality," the Carters' decision might provide a long-overdue reassessment for families. Read the full essay. (Or read other Jimmy Carter stories.)

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