At the center of being cared for is the belief that each of us has the right to die with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so. Our experts explain how to seek this type of care and what to expect.
Comfort, dignity and quality care — that’s what all patients want when faced with illness. And those in the last stages of life are no exception. Hospice care exists to make sure patients and their loved ones receive the necessary support involved during life’s most difficult time.
So, what is hospice? Using a team-oriented approach to caring for patients nearing the end of life, hospice helps them live as fully as possible in the present while planning for the imminent future. Patients receiving hospice care are no longer aggressively pursuing curative treatment.
The focus is on helping patients be as comfortable, functional, alert and pain-free as possible in their last days while addressing their spiritual, psychological and social needs.
Hospice care is generally paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veteran Affairs and private insurance. In many cases, care is provided to those in need of services who are unable to pay.
Qualifying for Hospice Care
Hospice is available to people of any age who are terminally ill and have been given six months or less to live if their illness runs its normal course, unimpeded. Most people think of cancer when they think of hospice. But in truth, hospice patients suffer from one of a number of diseases, illnesses and chronic conditions, including:
- Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Kidney disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Final stages of dementia
- Complications of AIDS
It is difficult to gauge end of life. Some patients live longer than expected, in which case hospice care continues if their prognosis does not change. Patients who show marked improvement, however, may no longer require hospice care.
What services does hospice provide?
An interdisciplinary team works in tandem with patients and their loved ones to create an individualized treatment and pain-management plan according to a patient’s preferences. The team may include doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aides, spiritual advisors, counselors and trained volunteers.
Patients can receive hospice care in any setting — a hospital, a nursing facility and at home. Most hospice care is ideally provided in a patient’s home. Hospice staff members make regular visits to assess patients and make any needed changes or additions to their treatment plans. And certain members of hospice staff, like nurses or social workers, are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some treatments such as physical therapy, wound care, antibiotics or oxygen may be administered to hospice patients, not to cure a disease but to increase their comfort level.
A treatment plan can include the following:
- Support regarding the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of death
- Counseling and bereavement support for loved ones
- Volunteer support: respite for caregivers, companionship, meal preparation or running errands
- Necessary drugs, medical supplies and equipment
- Pain and symptom management
- Instruction for loved ones on how to care for the patient
- Special services like speech and physical therapy as needed
- Short-term inpatient care when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs limited respite time
In addition, your care team can offer assistance with:
- Completing advance directive forms — legal forms you fill out to note the medical care you want if you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself — and ensuring wishes about life support and CPR are carried out
- Daily living activities like bathing and eating
- Putting legal and financial affairs in order
- Family communications and interactions
At Renown Health Hospice, patients receive compassionate care from a highly skilled and experienced interdisciplinary team, members of which are available 24/7.
Linda Derry, 15-year hospice volunteer veteran in our community is one of the volunteers at Renown. And like all of our hospice staff, she is passionate about helping those who are terminally ill “feel supported, honored and celebrated.” She feels that her work as a volunteer provides the “opportunity to reach beyond your fear of mortality to help someone live in comfort and peace during the most trying, important time in their life.”
Renown hospice staff are available to meet with patients in advanced stages of illness and their loved ones free of charge to answer questions, assess a patient’s needs and explain the many benefits of hospice.
To learn more, visit renown.org/hospice or call 775-982-2828.