Option of Hospice Care Freeing for Many
People who read my work on a regular basis know that I am grateful to hospice for the care of both of my parents. Without the skilled, compassionate care of the hospice staff, both of my parents would have suffered far more than they did. As it was, they’d both had long, slow declines. Pain had become the focus of their lives even though they received excellent care in the nursing home. First Dad, and eventually Mom, qualified for hospice care because they were considered terminally ill with less than six months to live. I filled out the paperwork for each of them and, yes, doing so was painful for me. But not having hospice there to take care of their end-of-life needs was unthinkable.
With each of my parents, once they were on the program the hospice staff melded seamlessly with the nursing home staff. Hospice care freed my parents from their all consuming pain, allowing them to focus on living their lives during the time they had left.
What is hospice care?
Hospice provides palliative care, meaning that the organization can take over the care of someone for whom the goal has shifted from attempting to cure an illness to keeping a patient as comfortable and free of pain as possible. Hospice also provides services to the patient’s family members and friends by offering training and keeping them involved in giving care.
Hospices do vary in quality and services provided. I’ve heard from many readers who’ve had loved ones under hospice care. Only rarely would I find that some of them didn’t receive the wonderful care that my family members did. Funding, training, staff and even the attitude of administrators can make a difference. However, the vast majority of hospice patients and families that I hear from are deeply grateful for their hospice caregivers and have nothing but rave reviews for the service.
When to call hospice
Once a doctor certifies that a patient has a terminal illness and will probably have six months or less to live, the patient qualifies for hospice care. The reality, of course, is that a doctor’s opinion about how long a patient has left to live is an educated guess, but most insurance providers including Medicare require a terminal diagnosis before they pay for the care.
People often suspend hospice care. For instance, if the patient has a terminal disease but then goes into remission, hospice care can be discontinued until once again the patient needs their help. Also, of course, if a person simply decides that they no longer want hospice care, they can discontinue it at any time.
Types of care
When requested, hospice care is delivered to people in their own homes as well as in nursing homes, hospitals and hospice facilities. Specific hospice services can depend on the agency and people who provide care and, of course, the type of care the patient needs. Hospice services are generally provided by a team of caregivers. This team will likely include the physician who oversees and coordinates the care, nursing care, help with daily needs, visits from a spiritual counselor if wanted, social services help, respite care for the family, medical supplies needed in the home, medications to help control pain and symptoms, physical therapy needed for comfort, and counseling for the family.
Hospice and Alzheimer’s disease
In the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people are generally dependent on others for care. No matter how unresponsive they seem, they still feel pain and can experience distressing symptoms. Hospice care can help alleviate physical suffering by controlling pain and managing symptoms, and can provide emotional comfort to the patient and his or her family.
As the patient’s physical needs change, hospice staff can help families understand what is happening so that they can make necessary decisions. Hospice staff and clergy can assist both the patient and the family by offering reassurance, counseling and the understanding that comes from experience.
To learn more about hospice care and the resources it offers go to the Hospice Information Center at www.hospicefoundation.org/infocenter.
Hospice Foundation of America. Hospice Information Center. Retrieved from http://www.hospicefoundation.org/infocenter
Hospice Foundation of America. Alzheimer’s disease and hospice care. Retrieved from http://www.hospicefoundation.org/uploads/hic_fs_alz.pdf