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. We talked to our experts about how to seek hospice 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.
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 exists to provide support and care to patients and families who are facing end of life, so that they may continue to enjoy a full life with dignity and as comfortable as possible,” says Kim Brenay, administrator of Renown Hospice Care.
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. Terminal illnesses include:
- Heart disease
- Amyotrophic lateral clerosis (ALS)
- Pulmonary disease
- Liver disease
What Services Does hospice Provide?
An interdisciplinary team works in tandem with patients and their loved ones to create an individualized treatment and symptom management plan according to the 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 group home, a nursing facility and at home. Most hospice care is ideally provided in a patient’s home. Hospice provides patients scheduled visits depending on their individual needs by a registered nurse case manager, a certified nursing assistant, a chaplain, a social worker and volunteers. A registered nurse is available nights, weekends and holidays to answer questions or make a visit if a need arises.
A care plan can include the following:
- Support regarding the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of death
- Counseling and bereavement support for loved ones
- Volunteer support, including respite for caregivers, companionship, meal preparation or running errands
- Necessary medications, 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, which are legal forms you complete to document the type medical care you want if you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself
- Daily living activities like bathing and eating
- Putting legal and financial affairs in order
- Family communications and interactions
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.