When a cure is no longer expected, hospice care will enable you to remain independent for as long as possible, live comfortably, and ensure that your wishes are followed.
Patients become eligible for hospice care when curative options have been exhausted or the risks of treatment outweigh the gains, and when the physician estimates the person’s life expectancy to be months rather than years.
Although recovery may no longer be possible for our patients, there is still a great deal we can do through physical, emotional and spiritual care to help them feel comfortable and to enhance their quality of life. Of course, the decision to seek hospice is always reversible, and you may discontinue care at any time.
Anyone can request a free Hospice Services consultation. Our staff will contact your physician to determine the appropriate time to begin hospice services.
At any time during a life-limiting illness, it’s appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice. The decision to use hospice or not is one between the patient and their doctor. Most hospices accept patients who have life expectancy of six months or less and who are referred by their personal physician.
The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other health care professionals, clergy or friends.
Although the core services should remain the same under Medicare guidelines, the manners in which those services are delivered can and do vary greatly. A patient and their family should become informed consumers about the different hospices serving their area.
One of the first things the hospice program will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for this patient at this time. (Most hospices have medical staff available to help patients who have no physician.) The patient will be asked to sign consent and insurance forms. These are similar to the forms patients sign when they enter a hospital. The form Medicare patients sign also tells how electing the Medicare hospice benefit affects other Medicare coverage.
In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally recommends someone be there continuously. While family and friends do deliver most of the care, hospices may have volunteers to assist with errands and to provide a break and time away for primary caregivers.
Hospice neither hastens nor postpones dying. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pains are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it can address each. Hospice nurses and doctors are up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. In addition, a licensed medical social worker and clergy are available to assist family members as well as patients with counseling and emotional support.
Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to have the patient as pain free and alert as possible. By constantly consulting with the patient, hospices have been very successful in reaching this goal.
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, by Medicaid in 47 states, and by most private insurance providers. To be sure of coverage, families should check with their employer or health insurance provider.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the full scope of medical and support services for a life-limiting illness. Hospice care also supports the family and loved ones of the person through a variety of services. This benefit covers almost all aspects of hospice care with little expense to the patient or family.
The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any coverage they may not be aware of. Barring this, some hospices will provide for anyone who cannot pay using money raised from the community or from memorial or foundation gifts.
Most hospices provide continuing contact and support for caregivers for at least a year following the death of a loved one. Many hospices also sponsor bereavement groups and support for anyone in the community who has experienced a death of a family member, a friend, or similar losses.
A living will, which allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life.