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Ohio's Aging Population Ranks Among Top Five in Country

Longer Life Expectancies Create Growing Need to Manage Complex Illnesses

CLEVELAND, Nov. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Karen Vekasy, an advanced practice nurse with Hospice of the Western Reserve, is often asked: "How can you work in hospice? It must be so sad." Her answer is always the same. "I can't imagine more rewarding work."  Vekasy, who has been a hospice nurse for more than 10 years,  said she loves her work because she sees what a difference it makes in a person's life at a time when hope can seem out of reach. 

Vekasy said as Ohio's population continues to age and people are living longer lives, more people are coping with chronic illnesses such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), dementia and Alzheimer's. Ohio has one of the largest older populations in the country. Only California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas have more people age 60 and over. Ohio's over 60 population is expected to grow by 28 percent in 2020.

Hospice and palliative care can help people of all ages manage serious illnesses. "A lot of myths persist, but hospice is not about giving up.  In fact, it's all about living life as fully as possible. Hospice provides end-of-life care for patients who are estimated to live about six months, while palliative care can help people who are trying to manage the symptoms of complex illnesses who are not forgoing life-prolonging and curative treatments," Vekasy explained.

"We're looking at really helping to determine benefit versus burden that patients are approaching," she said. "Just because we're able to do something doesn't mean it's necessarily something the patient would want. It's really talking about the quality of life with patients, not just the quantity of life."

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, more than 1.5 million patients are currently receiving hospice care in the U.S., more than double the number served a decade earlier. That figure is expected to rise as baby boomers, the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, get older.  

"I love that I can use my education as a nurse to bring comfort and dignity to my patients," Vekasy said. "And I love being a part of a professional team that works together to offer individualized, holistic care to families when it is critically needed."

Vekasy said many people still mistakenly believe hospice is a place. "It's not a place; it's a philosophy of care that provides pain management, symptom control, and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible," she said.  "It can be provided anywhere."

Hospice of the Western Reserve does have residential care facilities, but most care is delivered wherever the patient calls home, whether in their private residence, at a retirement or assisted living community or in a nursing home. Hospice is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans and HMOs. For more information, contact Hospice of the Western Reserve at 800.707.8922, or visit

Media contact: Laurie Henrichsen, Hospice of the Western Reserve, 216.701.1768, or



SOURCE Hospice of the Western Reserve

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