In a year that’s been plagued with death for multiple reasons, ranging from disease and police brutality to unfortunately violence within our own communities, many Black people have spent more time than intended in 2021 burying our loved ones. That becomes even more evident when considering our elders as they approach natural death.
However, the good people who run Heart and Soul Hospice out of Nashville have made it their mission to make the transition exceptionally meaningful for its clientele of grieving African American families.
As reported by NPR, the Black-owned hospice care company is 100% open to serving all but has put a special emphasis on African American clients due to a major underserving noticed in the community. It was noted that out of the city’s Black population, which makes up 27% in Nashville, only 19% of hospice patients are in fact Black. Regulators granted the permission to Heart and Soul Hospice based on these facts, with hopes their initiative to educate an underserved group will be fulfilled.
See the stats below for a look at the imbalance in how we handle end-of-life care in comparison to our white counterparts, via NPR:
“National data shows Black Medicare patients and their families are not making the move to comfort care as often as white patients are. Roughly 41% of Black Medicare beneficiaries who died in 2019 were enrolled in hospice, compared with white patients for whom the figure is 54%, according to data compiled annually by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.”
While there’s no concrete reason as to why there’s been such a divide in the view on hospice care between white and Black families, many note it may be due to spiritual beliefs or a longstanding mistrust in the medical system triggered by years of discrimination in the past. Even though Heart and Soul Hospice currently serves those in Tennessee, company investor André Lee says many other states can follow suit by simply hiring more Black nurses. “A lot of hospices don’t employ enough Black people,” Lee told NPR, also adding, “We all feel comfortable when you see someone over there that looks like you.”
Thankfully, Lee and a team of other investors in Heart and Soul have plans to recreate the experience in other states in the near future.
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