If you’re caring for someone with a life-limiting illness, there comes a time when hospice care should be discussed. Hospice care can be a meaningful time for the patient, as well as their loved ones and friends. November is National Home Care & Hospice Month, a good time to learn about this type of care.
What is hospice?
Some people may have misperceptions about what hospice is. We speak of “going into” hospice, being “in hospice care” and even being “admitted to hospice care.” Those phrases can make it sound like a specific place. But hospice isn’t a place—it’s a level of care, and it can be provided wherever the patient is located. That includes hospitals, private homes, and senior living communities.
Wherever it’s provided, hospice care addresses both physical and psychological needs. The overall goal is to ensure the patient’s comfort by managing symptoms and providing any emotional, spiritual or religious support the patient requests. It centers on the patient’s acceptance of their death and on whatever final communication they want to have with the important people in their life.
Because Medicare, as well as many private insurance policies, covers hospice care, these services are accessible to most older adults.
What to expect with hospice care
Finding hospice care. Hospice is intended for patients whose life expectancy is six months or less. If that time comes, the patient’s doctor or healthcare organization (for example, a hospital) can provide information on local hospice providers. Some hospitals, as well as senior living residences, offer their own hospice programs. In other cases you may work with a local hospice company or a volunteer group. These organizations will either bill their services to Medicare/Medicaid or provide them at no cost.
Physical care. The patient’s doctor will advise hospice caregivers on how to manage symptoms such as pain and discomfort. In hospice, none of the care provided is curative. The patient decides how much comfort care they want to receive, as well as what they will eat and drink. The patient is free at any time to change their mind and return to treatment that may cure their illness or extend their life.
Emotional and spiritual/religious support. Hospice provides the support needed so the patient can maintain grace and dignity in the final stages of life and so family members can have the support they need. That might mean making time for final conversations, reminiscing, and expressing gratitude. The patient, family or friends may want spiritual or religious support.
Working with current home care services. Windward Life Care is available to continue serving clients who are receiving hospice care. Whether they’re working with a home care aide, a home health nurse, or a care manager, the hospice patient can rely on our dedicated staff to serve with dignity and respect.
Amount of care provided. Many people assume that hospice will provide 24/7 care for their loved one, but that is not the case. At the outset, the hospice nurse may only visit once or twice a week until the patient gets closer to the end. Family caregivers or others may be needed. Having an agency like Windward to give family caregivers respite is very helpful.
Making the hospice decision
If you’re wondering whether hospice is the right choice, consider talking to our team. We’ll help you select the best services to meet the needs of your loved one and your family.