There are many questions, even myths, about hospice. Here are a few of the most common questions that may help you get a better understanding of hospice and how it can benefit your family:
- What is hospice care?
- What services are provided?
- Who pays for hospice services?
- When is the best time to begin hospice care?
- How does hospice care begin?
- Isn't using hospice the same as "giving up"?
What is hospice care?
Hospice is a philosophy not a place. Hospice focuses on palliative rather than curative care. The patient and family of the terminally ill is care for, educated, and supported by a team of hospice-trained professionals such as nurses, aides, social workers, and chaplains. The interdisciplinary team is to bring comfort and the best quality of life and dignity to the end of life.
What services are provided?
A team of professionals such as Physicians, Registered Nurses, Certified Nursing Aides, Chaplain’s Licensed Social Workers, Volunteers all participate in he care of patients and families. Medications and medical equipment are also provided as needed. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and a dietitian are available to evaluate.
Who pays for hospice services?
If the person you care for has Medicare or Medicaid and meets hospice eligibility requirements, then the government will pay 100% of the allowed rate. Not only are the services of the hospice staff entirely covered, but medical supplies and prescriptions relating to pain and comfort management are also covered under the Medicare benefit. Individuals who do not have Medicare coverage but have coverage from private insurance should talk with their insurance company to find out whether they meet the eligibility criteria and how much is required in terms of a deductible and copayments. For those with no insurance coverage whatsoever, generous donations from local businesses, patients and families enable us to offer hospice care regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
When is the best time to begin hospice care?
Although end of life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for families to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes that advice and input of physician, family members, and loved ones.
Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier, that they needed the help much sooner than they received it. Research has shown that hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives. Families who receive hospice near the very end–just a few days to a week–have been shown to have a harder time adjusting during the bereavement period than do those whose loved one receives hospice care for weeks and months before passing on. If you even think that your family and the person you care for could benefit from pain or symptom management, assistance with bathing and grooming, emotional and spiritual support, and telephone access to caregiving advice, ask your physician if hospice might be a service to consider. Experts agree that at least two to three months of care is optimal. It is better to ask sooner rather than later so you do not regret having missed the support that hospice has to offer.
How does hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a referral is made by the patients physician, although the process can be started different ways. Solace Hospice would have a nurse visit when it is convenient for the patient and family, usually within 24 hours, sooner if the patient or family requests it. The nurse would then evaluate for hospice criteria and then admit the patient if appropriate. Another visit would then be made by the Nurse Case Manager within 24-48 to make sure all immediate needs are being met and any medical equipment that is needed is in place.
Isn't using hospice the same as "giving up"?
Not at all! Although it may be that your loved one’s condition has reached a point that a cure is not likely–or not likely enough to be worth the side effects of treatment–that does not mean there is nothing left to do. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her last months focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. As one man put it, “I’d rather spend my time with my children and grandchildren than waste my limited time and energy driving to the treatment center and recovering beside the toilet bowl.” With the expert guidance of a nurse and case manager, as well as the assistance of bath aides, social workers, and chaplains, patients and families find they can focus on their relationships, healing old wounds and building wonderful memories together. Far from giving up, hospice helps families truly live well and support each other during a stressful, but in the end very natural, family life passage.