What is hospice care?

Have you received a terminal diagnosis…or are not responding to treatment? Do you have a late-stage chronic illness that is getting worse and worse? Are you debilitated from treatments and wish to stop seeking a cure?

Hospice care could substantially improve your quality of life if you are experiencing the following:

  • Increased pain, nausea, breathing distress, anxiety or other debilitating symptoms
  • Repeated hospitalizations or ER trips
  • Failure to “bounce back” after medical setbacks
  • Increasing assistance needed for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or toileting
  • Decreasing alertness, emotional withdrawal, increased sleeping, difficulty with comprehension

And, your family is:

  • Physically or emotionally exhausted due to caregiving responsibilities
  • Overwhelmed by the growing number of physical, financial, emotional and spiritual concerns because of the illness
  • Seeking better understanding of the disease process
  • In need of emotional/grief support for the whole family, including children

Hospice is a positive option for anyone of any age, with any life-limiting disease; it is provided when it is believed patients have six months, or less, to live. While many hospice patients have cancer, hospice care provides great comfort and support for patients with all types of illnesses, including heart, lung, kidney, vascular and neuromuscular diseases, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias, AIDS and birth defects. Hospice care can also be beneficial for people who are in a severe state of decline due to frailty or other disorders associated with aging.

Care and services are provided by a highly specialized team of physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, aides, clergy and volunteers. Together, they help patients and families live life to the fullest extent possible, and help them address the wide array of issues that arise at the end of life. In addition, they provide bereavement support for family members of all ages following the death of their loved ones.

The costs of hospice care are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most other insurance plans.

Learn more about how hospice improves quality of life by providing specialized medical, emotional and spiritual care for those facing a terminal illness.

 

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When is it time for hospice care?

When you are told by a doctor that “there is nothing more we can do” or you are “not responding to treatment,” hospice care can substantially improve your outlook and your quality of life.

Here are some signs it is time for hospice care:

  • Increased pain, nausea, breathing distress, anxiety or other debilitating symptoms
  • Repeated hospitalizations or ER trips
  • Failure to “bounce back” after medical setbacks
  • Increasing assistance needed for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or toileting
  • Decreasing alertness, emotional withdrawal, increased sleeping, difficulty with comprehension

And, your family is:

  • Physically or emotionally exhausted due to caregiving responsibilities
  • Overwhelmed by the growing number of physical, financial, emotional and spiritual concerns because of the illness
  • Seeking better understanding of the disease process
  • In need of emotional/grief support for the whole family, including children

It is time to call hospice!

Hospice care is meant for the last six months of life; however, determining life expectancy is not an exact science and is often overestimated. Most people are surprised to learn that they can access hospice services much earlier than they thought. And, if your condition changes or you are no longer appropriate for hospice care, you can go off of it any time.

Learn more about how enrolling in a hospice program early increases quality of life for those facing a terminal illness.

 

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Are all hospices the same?

With an increasing number of hospices serving the area, you might be thinking that they all provide the same level and quality of care. While Medicare does mandate minimum requirements for every hospice program, each hospice offers these services in unique ways. Some provide only the basic services required, while others significantly exceed them. It is important to understand that the philosophy of the agency, the resources it has available and—above all else—the expertise and compassion of its staff, do make a difference!

Here are a few characteristics that you should look for in a quality hospice program:

  • High satisfaction rating from families who have used the service
  • High level of staff certification in hospice and palliative care
  • Longevity of providing care
  • Nonprofit status – turning no one away due to inability to pay
  • Availability of inpatient hospice care
  • Extensive bereavement programs for hospice families and the community
  • Caregiver support
  • Strong volunteer program
  • Joint Commission Accreditation

There are additional items that differentiate hospice programs. Consider talking to friends or co-workers who may have had a hospice experience and explore what was important for them.

All hospices are not alike. Learn more about how they differ before selecting the best program for you.

 

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Can I choose my own hospice care provider?

A doctor may have suggested to you or a family member that it is time to turn to hospice for end-of-life care. Or you may simply wonder if it’s time to consider giving hospice a call. In either case, you want to ensure you receive the best care available, and the best quality of life, for as long as possible.

You have the right to choose whichever hospice provider you desire, regardless of who your physician is, what hospital or nursing home you may be in, or what insurance plan provides your health coverage. Once you make your decision, it is extremely important that you ask for that hospice provider by name.

When choosing a hospice program, consider the following:

  • How long has the hospice been providing care?
  • Is the hospice a community-based, nonprofit organization?
  • Is its staff specially trained/certified in hospice and palliative care?
  • How many specialized physicians and advanced practice nurses are on staff?
  • What are its staff-to-patient ratios?
  • What are its patient and family satisfaction ratings?
  • Does it provide inpatient hospice care in a specially designed environment?
  • Does it offer special therapies or enrichment activities?
  • Does it have ample, well-trained volunteers?
  • Does it provide a multi-faceted bereavement program for the entire family?
  • What is its policy for patients who are unable to pay for services?
  • Is it Joint Commission accredited?
  • What professional affiliations does the hospice have?

All hospices are not alike. Learn more about how they may differ before selecting the best program for you.

 

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Can hospice help in a nursing home?

Making the decision to add hospice care for a loved one already living in a nursing home raises many questions. You may be confused about what services can be provided and if insurance will pay for hospice care in the facility.

Your loved one living in a nursing home, and your family, can receive all the same services as hospice patients living in their own homes. Based on patient need, this will include:

  • Medical and nursing care
  • Pain and symptom management
  • Aide services
  • Drugs and medical supplies related to the terminal illness
  • Extended nurse visits for symptom management
  • Family education
  • Emotional and spiritual support for the patient and family
  • Massage and music therapy; art expression
  • Companionship from a hospice volunteer
  • Assistance at the time of death
  • Bereavement support

When hospice partners with the nursing home staff to enhance the care and services your loved one receives, he or she will enjoy improved quality of life while also avoiding hospital admissions and stressful trips to the ER.

Nursing home patients who choose hospice will have to continue to pay the facility’s daily room and board fee; however, Medicare, Medicaid and most other insurance plans will cover the cost of everything needed to manage the patient’s terminal illness though the hospice benefit.

Learn more about how hospice works with nursing home staff to enhance care at the end of life.

 

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What is the first step to receiving hospice?

When taking the first steps to access hospice care, you may question whether or not the time is “right.”  Please know that hospice care likely would be beneficial if you or a loved one is struggling with a chronic serious illness and are experiencing:

  • Increased pain, nausea, breathing distress, anxiety or other debilitating symptoms
  • Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the ER
  • Failure to “bounce back” after medical setbacks
  • Increasing assistance needed for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or toileting
  • Decreasing alertness, emotional withdrawal, increased sleeping, difficulty with comprehension

You may want to speak to your doctor about whether hospice would be the next appropriate step for you. However, you can also make the initial call to hospice on your own. Hospice staff will carefully listen to the specifics of your situation and will discuss the benefits of hospice care for you and the whole family.

With your permission, hospice will obtain any necessary documentation or paperwork from your physician’s office.

By contacting hospice earlier as opposed to later, you will take the stress out of managing your end-stage disease and ensure quality of life for as long as possible.

Take the first steps to quality end-of-life care by contacting hospice early.

 

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Is hospice giving up?

If you have an illness that is not responding to curative treatment, you may be feeling afraid, confused, frustrated or overwhelmed. And though you may already know that hospice would be a positive end-of-life option, it can be difficult to initiate such a discussion with family members, your doctor or hospital personnel.

Please remember that choosing hospice doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It means you’re choosing to have an end-of-life experience that is the best it can possibly be.  

Hospice is comprehensive care that is provided by a team of specialists, including doctors, nurses, therapists, aides, social workers, clergy and volunteers. The goal is to care for the patient while also supporting the entire family.

It is a positive option for:

  • Anyone of any age who has six months or less to live
  • Patients with end-stage cancer, heart, lung, kidney, vascular and neuromuscular diseases, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias, AIDS or birth defects
  • Elderly people who are in a severe state of decline or have multiple disorders

The hospice staff will assist with difficult family conversations and will provide counsel whether hospice care is needed now…or in the future.

Take control of your final months of life by contacting hospice early.

 

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Where is hospice care provided?

Hospice is not a place. It is a philosophy of care that can be provided wherever patients live—in their own homes, nursing facilities, assisted living communities or at inpatient hospice centers. Most hospice patients choose—and are able—to stay wherever they call home.

This is possible because hospice provides a team of experts who give care, support and education that enable families to meet their loved ones’ needs at the end of life. Services that are provided in the home include:

  • Medical and nursing care
  • Pain and symptom management
  • Aide services
  • Drugs and medical supplies related to the terminal illness
  • Extended nurse visits for symptom management
  • Family education
  • Emotional and spiritual support for the patient and family
  • Massage and music therapy; art expression
  • Volunteer support for the patient and/or family
  • Assistance at the time of death
  • Bereavement support

As care needs change, arrangements can be made for care in a nursing or assisted living facility or at a specially designed hospice inpatient center.

Patients in a nursing home have access to the same services as those living in private homes. The hospice care team oversees the patient’s plan of care, while relying on the facility staff to provide the round-the-clock care the family would provide in a private home.

A hospice inpatient center is an ideal option when patients have acute or fluctuating medical issues that require constant monitoring and/or intensive pain and symptom management.

Your hospice care team will work with you to determine the care setting that best fits your needs, and will explain fully if a change in care setting becomes necessary.

Learn more about how hospice care can help you manage pain and symptoms so you can stay at home.

 

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