Comfort Care in the Spotlight in the Wake of Barbara Bush’s End-of-Life Decision

Former first lady Barbara Bush died on April 17 at the age of 92 in her home in Houston, Texas after making the decision to seek advanced care directive home care hospice, or comfort care, for her terminal illness. The respected and beloved first lady was suffering from congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and had decided a couple of days prior to her passing that she would “not seek additional medical treatment and will focus on comfort care.”

The announcement came amid a national effort to define and document patients’ wishes, and consider alternatives in lieu of facing costly medical interventions aimed at prolonging life.  “We have so few examples in visible leadership positions” of public figures promoting palliative care,” said Dr. Joanne Lynn, director of the program to improve elder care at Altarum Institute. Dr. Lynn worked with Mrs. Bush years ago when she was a congressional spouse volunteering at the Washington Home for chronically ill patients. Mrs. Bush helped with the founding of the hospice program there.

“It’s a personal decision that she [Barbara Bush] didn’t have to share, but hopefully it will encourage others to think about their choices, talk about their choices, document their choices and have those choices honored,” said Nathan Kottkamp, founder and chair of National Healthcare Decisions Day.  NHDD is an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be.

Comfort care, as defined by the National Institute of Aging, is an essential part of medical care at the end of life. It is care that helps or soothes a person who is dying. The goals are to prevent or relieve suffering as much as possible and to improve quality of life while respecting the dying person’s wishes. Comfort measures may include: offering pain and symptom management, which could be medicines or other therapies; giving spiritual care; and stopping medicines that do not aid comfort. Comfort care is part of the hospice services delivered by a team of professionals and trained volunteers. They provide physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and bereavement care to patients and their family members or care givers.

Manchester Specialty Programs would like to take this time to honor the legacy of Mrs. Bush, both in the way in which she chose to live and now at the end of her life.  

We provide comprehensive insurance solutions that address the various risks arising from the services provided by the hospice community. From Professional Liability exposures to management liability claims against directors and officers, data breaches resulting from HIPAA violations and claims of billing errors from government Medicare audits, we have the coverage solutions to respond to these risks. For more information about our business and insurance lines, you or your local agent/broker may contact us at 855.972.9399.

Sources: Kaiser Foundation, NHDD