There is much confusion surrounding hospice care and what it does or doesn’t do.
If you or a loved one is facing a terminal illness, or if you’re seeking to learn more about hospice programs for the future, here are eight important things to know about these valuable services.
Hospice care focuses on the quality of life rather than its length.Hospice services are used when a person can no longer be helped by curative treatments and is expected to live about six months or less. It provides humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of a life-limiting illness to help them live as fully and comfortably as possible. The hospice philosophy focuses on treating the individual rather than the illness so that one’s last days can be spent with dignity and quality.
It isn’t a physical location.Most people say they want to pass away at home, but only about one in four ends up doing so. That is often because trying to care for someone with a serious illness at home is simply too hard. But hospice care makes it possible. Hospices bring everything to the home—hospital bed, bedside commode, medications, bandages, experts for consultation—all tailored to the patient’s Hospice care is also available in hospitals and nursing homes.
All hospices are not the same.Medicare mandates minimum requirements for every hospice program but providers offer these services in unique ways. Some provide only the basic services required, while others significantly exceed them. A quality hospice program will offer:
- High satisfaction ratings from families who have used the service
- High levels of staff certification
- Longevity of providing care
- Availability of inpatient hospice care
- Caregiver support offerings
- Bereavement services for family members
- Joint Commission Accreditation (JCA)
Hospice benefits are broad in scope.When a doctor certifies a patient for hospice care, it triggers a range of services that are paid for through Medicare Part A. In addition to medical and nursing services, hospice offers social workers, grief counseling, and even physical and occupational therapy. Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans fully cover the costs of hospice care, including home visits, medications, supplies, and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis.
The entire family can benefit from hospice care.It is often hard for family members to witness delirium or understand the body language of someone who can no longer speak, for example. A hospice nurse can help interpret and explain what's happening, clarify questions about the patient’s health, and describe the signs of imminent death.
Care is coordinated and administered through a team approach.The hospice team coordinates and supervises care 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. This team may include an inpatient facility, the hospice physician or primary care doctor, volunteers, and other community professionals, such as pharmacists, social workers, clergy, and funeral directors. Caregivers are encouraged to contact the hospice team at any time of the day or night if a problem arises.
Respite care is available for caregivers.Understanding the demand placed upon caregivers, hospice provides caregivers with a service known as ‘respite care’. Under the provisions of respite care, a terminally ill loved one can be temporarily checked in to a professional care facility, such as a hospital, hospice inpatient care facility, or nursing home, for up to five days at a time. This allows the caregiver to get some much-needed rest and time away from the rigorous demands of daily caregiving.
Hospice also provides bereavement care to families.For up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one in hospice care, caregivers and family members are eligible to receive continuing contact and support. Initially, the care team works with survivors to help them through the grieving process. A trained volunteer, clergy member, or professional counselor provides support through visits, phone calls, and/or another contact, as well as through bereavement support groups. The hospice team can also refer family members and caregivers to medical or professional care if needed.
Choosing hospice doesn’t mean you’re giving up.
Sometimes, family members resist hospice care because they believe they are throwing in the towel. This is not the case. As hope for recovery evolves into hope for a life-ending in comfort and dignity, hospice care allows patients to make the best of each day during the final stages of advanced illness.
Hospice care can greatly enhance the quality of life for individuals with life-limiting illnesses while proving support for survivors during a difficult time. If you have additional questions about hospice care, or if you need assistance locating a quality provider, please contact us anytime.
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