It’s Wednesday afternoon at Hospice Atlanta Center, and nurse Wendy Gleason works from a desk covered in jolly Disney paraphernalia, her Mickey Mouse earrings sparkling. Above her desk, a Walt Disney quote: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Across the hall, inside an elegant library, a volunteer plays a beautifulPie Jesu on a grand piano. Laughter rings out in the in-patient facility’s halls, as a cook delivers custom-ordered meals to patients.

Minutes later, a doctor rushes to help ease a very ill patient’s pain. A chaplain helps a family grapple with devastating news. In the acute care wing, a young patient spends what may be their last days with family and friends.

This is a place where life and death intersect in ways most of us have never seen. Because in hospice care, the aim is not to cure disease, but to help patients through the process of dying.

“In most facilities and hospitals, the mindset is curative. Where in hospice it’s not curative, it’s palliative,” says Gleason. “Palliative means you’re not trying to cure the disease. You’re trying to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.”

For most of us, the thought of death and dying is difficult — even the idea of contemplating end-of-life care can be daunting. But November is National Hospice month, a good opportunity to bring awareness about hospice care to family and friends.


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