When a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis, you may be informed about an option known as hospice.
But what is hospice care? Does it mean you’ve given up on your loved one? How does it differ from other types of medical care? It is natural to have lots of questions to make sure your loved one receives the care and respect they deserve.
First of all, please be assured that turning to hospice does not mean giving up on your loved one. What it does mean is providing comfort and maximizing their quality of life, rather than attempting to cure an illness. Hospice is designed for patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of 6 months or less.
With that in mind, let us answer some of the most common questions people have about hospice care.
What Are the Benefits of Hospice Care?
Hospice treats the “whole person,” including your loved one’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being. Care is tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual patient.
Services include pain management and treatment of other physical symptoms. Patients may receive assistance with daily activities and counseling to address psychological needs, along with social and spiritual support.
Hospice also helps family members through this difficult time. Nurses and care aides provide practical assistance on patient care, completing chores and running errands. Respite care lets family caregivers take a much-needed break to tend to their own needs. Finally, counseling helps with the grieving process both before and after your loved one passes away.
Who Will Be on Your Loved One’s Care Team?
Dedicated health professionals and generous volunteers provide compassionate care to patients and families. In addition to regular visits with your loved one’s care team, assistance is just a phone call away on a 24/7 basis, anytime you have a question.
- Registered nurses serve as care team leaders and visit home patients at least two times per week.
- Trained aides provide personal care and support. They assist with daily activities including eating, dressing, bathing and toileting. They also provide respite care for family caregivers.
- Chaplains offer prayer, comfort and conversation in keeping with the patient’s religious traditions.
- Volunteers provide much-needed companionship and help with simple tasks like running errands.
Where Does Hospice Care Take Place?
Most patients receive hospice services at home. In some cases, however, care may also be provided in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living community or stand-alone hospice center. The location for hospice is determined by the patient’s needs as characterized by one of four levels of care:
- Routine home care is most common. It includes home visits by nurses, home health aides and other providers.
- Continuous home care is offered in times of crisis, when the patient requires ongoing nursing care in their home
- General inpatient care is typically provided on a short-term basis in a hospital, skilled nursing facility or other professional healthcare setting. It is required when symptoms cannot be adequately treated in a home setting.
- Respite care is temporary assistance that gives family caregivers a break to relax, run errands, go to work or tend to other personal needs. It ensures that the patient gets the care they need when a family member cannot be present.
Other considerations include whether a family caregiver is physically and/or emotionally able to meet the needs of their loved one. Another factor is whether the patient’s home can accommodate medical equipment such as a hospital bed, wheelchairs or bedside commode.
What Hospice Care Services Will Your Loved One Receive?
All hospice services are personalized to accommodate the needs of each individual patient and their family. Your care team will establish a symptom-specific care plan that includes palliative care for pain management and comfort.
- Nursing care includes mentoring other team members and family caregivers about pain management and other symptom control.
- Physician services include local physicians who offer guidance on meeting the patient’s needs. In many cases, your loved one may continue to see their personal doctor in order to carry out their preferred end-of-life wishes.
- Pain management is customized for the needs of each patient to identify the best medications for keeping them comfortable.
- Personal care and homemaking includes help with a range of tasks including activities of daily living (ADLs), laundry and picking up groceries.
- Spiritual services include optional prayer over patients and families in keeping with the patient’s religious traditions.
- Grief counseling and social services assist families with the stress, anxiety and depression that often come when a loved one nearing the end of their life.
Depending on your loved one’s needs, you may also receive medical supplies and equipment for use at home, including medications, wheelchairs and a hospital bed. Some patients may also benefit from physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as nutrition counseling to help with meal planning.
When Is Hospice Care Needed?
The short answer to this question is “As soon as possible.”
Remember, turning to hospice does not mean giving up, and it does not hasten death. Instead, it enhances your loved one’s quality of life during the time they have left.
A good rule of thumb is that the earlier hospice is started the greater the benefit. Eligibility begins when a health provider certifies that your loved one has 6 months or less to live. Keep in mind that determining exact life expectancy is sometimes difficult and depends on a number of factors. If your loved one lives longer than 6 months, they may continue receiving care as long as a doctor certifies that it is needed. It is also possible to leave hospice care if the patient’s condition improves, and then return if it is needed again in the future.
How Will You Pay for Hospice Services?
The most common methods of paying for hospice care include Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits and private insurance plans. However, many hospice providers offer services based on need rather than ability to pay. Families should always ask about payment options in order to find affordable care. At Crown Hospice in Victoria, we rely on the support of generous donors in our community to provide quality care to our patients.
If you need more information about hospice care for yourself or a loved one, we are here to help you through this challenging time. Please call us at 361-575-5900 or reach out to us online at any time.