Crossing The Jordan Together:
An Exploration of End of Life Care in the African-American Community
End of life care has been around in various forms for centuries. Since it's beginnings in America, however, African-Americans have been slow to embrace the concept of hospice care. According to a 2010 report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, African-Americans accounted for only 8.7 percent of hospice patients, compared to whites, who accounted for 80.5 percent. These numbers compel us to ask some hard questions:
1. What are the origins of the deep-rooted mistrust that African-Americans have developed for the hospice care system?
2. How did the African-American community come to not only mistrust hospice care, but to reject it in such disproportionate numbers?
These are the questions we are exploring in this special documentary on DVD. We hope this presentation will bridge the gap between perceptions and possibilities on the part of caregivers to the dying, and for those in the African-American community who need the care that hospice offers.
Many people are familiar with the Tuskegee Experiment that lasted for 40 years and involved several hundred African-American men who had syphilis being led to believe they were being treated for bad blood. The experiment was only supposed to last for 6 months. Despite the discovery in 1945 that the disease responded well to penicillin, the subjects in the study were never given the drug. Amazingly the study then continued for another 27 years.
This breach of trust (and others) by the medical community has undoubtedly led to many African-Americans being skeptical of the hospice care system. When faced with the terminal illness of a loved one, many cling to the faith that God will miraculously heal the person. Frequently, there is the perception that accepting hospice or palliative care is giving up or throwing in the towel and that somehow the person has let go of their faith and turned their back on God's ability to heal.
The challenge as a hospice care provider is to help people see that hospice and faith/spirituality work hand-in-hand. It is not an either/or proposition. African-Americans also owe it to themselves to explore all options when it comes to end-of-life care. The dying process is one that everyone must face, and exploring end-of-life options before they are needed, can help make the process more bearable. The struggles that many African-Americans have endured throughout their lives do not have to continue in their final days. They deserve the right to a quality life right up to the end, surrounded by family and loved ones and supported and cared for by knowledgeable, compassionate health care professionals.
Ideally, the day will come when all people, including African-Americans, will be just as accepting of hospice care at the end of life as they are of pediatric care at the beginning of life. It really is about a cycle of life and end of life care is actually just the next level of care as we move from birth to death. It is not a matter of giving up instead it is acknowledging the simple truth that death is an integral part of life. It is something that we must all face.
Death does not have to be seen as an ending, especially for persons of faith. It simply becomes the bridge to what comes next.
Recording Artist James Dore' Heads To The Carribean
James Dore' recently traveled to the island of St. Croix in the Caribbean Islands to host a program on Hospice Care. Producer JoAnne Chitwood had a life changing experience assisting a close friend with end-of-life care that led her to ask some tough questions about the distrust and widespread rejection of Hospice Care by African-Americans. The result of her 7 year quest to answer those difficult questions is a soon to be released DVD documentary featuring James Dore'. The DVD also includes interviews with patients and their family members and addresses obstacles that keep African-Americans from receiving proper care and information about Hospice care availability.
Dore' wrote and performed the song "Reach Across" that sets an inspirational tone for the project DVD . Dore' states, "I set out to create a song that reflects the hopes, fears and eventual triumph of the believer crossing over to the other side of eternity".
Dore' said, "My prayer is that this DVD and this song will help people in transition move forward, getting the help they need to be successful in this life and in the life to come. In my experience when the subject comes up, every one of my African-American friends from my high school, to the Producer of "Reach Across", Chris Starr are very aware of the tainted history between the African-American community and government medical institutions. It's an issue that needs to be addressed. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity from birth to death regardless of their ethnicity or anything else and I truly believe this DVD is a tool to help accomplish just that...It's an honor to be a part of such a profoundly important project."
Much of the filming is complete for the DVD project but funds are needed to complete post-production and distribution. If you would like to to help the African-American DVD film project, please use the "Donation" link above to connect with PayPal and make a tax deductable contribution. After clicking on the button, simply type in the amount you wish to donate and update your shopping cart totals before filling out payment information. You do not need to have a PayPal account to make a credit card donation payment to Bordermountain, Inc.