by Hannah Osland, RN, BSN, CHPN
Starting hospice care can be a challenging and emotional experience for families. It involves meeting a new healthcare team, learning unfamiliar medical terms, and carrying the weight of your loved one’s end-of-life journey, which can add stress to an already difficult time. This transitional time also brings a compassionate layer of care. Our hospice team immediately steps forward, answering questions and providing help that is focused on comfort and care. During the first week of hospice care, there are many changes to adapt to and new information to learn. However, we are here to guide and support families every step of the way. Hospice care is about more than just medical treatment; it’s about providing comfort, dignity and compassion. Below you will learn where to start in requesting help and how the first week of hospice care will look for you and your loved ones.
Reaching out – First Steps
A hospice referral can be made by anyone and does not need to come from a doctor. If you believe that your loved one could benefit from hospice services, simply call us at (800) 237-4629 and request a referral visit. A nurse or social worker will arrange to visit your loved one at a time that suits you, gather additional information and determine whether your loved one meets the eligibility criteria.
During the admission process, a nurse will assess your loved one’s health history, diagnosis and physical condition. If your loved one meets the eligibility criteria, the nurse will contact the medical director to obtain orders for admission. The admission paperwork can be signed right away, allowing hospice services to start immediately, no matter where the patient calls home. Your hospice nurse will discuss any recommended changes with you and your loved one before making adjustments. Your hospice nurse may also make recommendations for equipment or supplies for your loved one to feel most comfortable. Together with your nurse, you will create a care plan that focuses on comfort, symptom management and your loved one’s goals for their final days, weeks or months.
The First Week
During the first week of hospice care, your loved one will be assigned a primary team consisting of a nurse, certified nursing assistant (CNA), social worker, chaplain, CNA scheduler and volunteer coordinator. While these professionals work together closely as a team, they will each contact the patient’s primary caregiver individually within the first few days of admission to hospice. This may result in a lot of phone calls initially. However, once the patient is established with their team, there will be fewer calls, and each staff member will create a schedule for their visits that works best for you and your loved one. A nurse will visit the day after hospice admission and schedule a visit at least one week thereafter, while the frequency of visits from other team members will depend on you and your loved one’s preferences. Together, your team will provide physical comfort, emotional and spiritual support, and care for your entire family.
When Hospice of the Red River Valley begins care, our team responds swiftly and focuses on you and your family. The routine quickly settles in and a calm presence takes place. You are not alone on this journey.
Hospice of the Red River Valley is dedicated to making each moment matter, for you, for them and for us, by providing the compassion and care everyone deserves through their life’s journey.
Hannah Osland is a Registered Nurse at Hospice of the Red River Valley.