Hospice: Delivering Compassionate Care Regardless of Environment

One of America’s most recognized nonprofits that’s dedicated to providing dignity and quality care to those facing end-of-life challenges doesn’t discriminate in its mission. The program is available to patients regardless of race, creed, religion, financial standing, and, as it turns out, incarceration status. With many studies showing that the prison community as a whole has a greater incident rate of serious illness, such as malignant cancers, this program has taken its mission inside in a very big way. The problem, however, is that while many prison hospice programs thrive, this option isn’t available everywhere.

One of the country’s most notable prison-based hospice programs is found in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. This program, located in Angola, serves a population of more than 5,000 male prisoners, many of whom face life sentences. Since its inception in 1998, Angola’s hospice program has served more than 220 patients with professional healthcare providers and inmate volunteers helping prisoners face difficult end-of-life issues in an especially difficult environment. Like hospice programs in the general population, Angola’s program is patient-centered, delivering unconditional care to those in need.

Angola’s hospice program delivers the same basic care other hospice programs do with a few twists. Since this is ultimately a prison environment, safety protocols must also be followed. Angola’s hospice workers and volunteers have learned to balance these needs with patient needs successfully.

While the hospice program at Louisiana State Penitentiary isn’t the nation’s only one, it serves as a strong example and speaks to the need for similar operations across the country. With prison populations facing higher cancer incident rates along with higher disease and illness rates overall, the need for similar programs throughout the American correctional system is high.

With various forms of cancer claiming thousands of lives each and every year, compassionate, end-of-life care is critical for all humans facing this journey into the unknown. Angola’s hospice program serves as a shining example of how to deliver the care that is needed the most to populations who might not otherwise receive it.

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