Hospice care is a set of specialty services designed specifically for individuals with late-stage illnesses and their loved ones, and includes medical, emotional, spiritual and grief support. Despite its many advantages, for both patients and their families, hospice is often misunderstood.
Sometimes, hospice care is never offered and other times an individual or family is reluctant to accept hospice care. Most families who receive hospice care say they wish they would have called sooner, and they had no idea how much hospice could do, for both the patient and the entire family. If you or a loved one suffers from a serious illness, here are 10 things you need to know about hospice care.
1. What services does hospice provide?
Hospice care includes:
- Medical care from registered nurses trained in pain control and symptom management.
- Personal care needs are met by certified nursing assistants who help with feeding or bathing assistance, shaving or nail care.
- Emotional support is provided by social workers who help manage the stress and emotional aspects of late-stage illness. Social workers may also assist in planning for increased care needs for the patient.
- Spiritual care is offered by chaplains who are professional clergy and recognize spiritual needs at this time of life.
- Volunteers offer companionship by playing cards, reading a newspaper, having coffee, taking walks or giving wheelchair rides, etc.
- Grief support is available from highly trained grief specialists who offer one-on-one visits, phone calls and literature to family members for up to 13 months, depending on individual needs and comfort level.
2. Is hospice care only for cancer patients?
No. Hospice care is for anyone with a late-stage illness, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart and lung diseases, renal failure, HIV and other life-limiting diseases.
3. Is hospice care only for the elderly?
Hospice is for people of all ages—from infants to the elderly—who have a life expectancy of six months or less if the illness runs its “normal” course.
4. Is hospice care expensive?
No, hospice services, including medication and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis, are completely covered under the Medicare/Medicaid Hospice Benefit. Most private insurance carriers also offer a hospice benefit. As a not-for-profit organization, care and services from Hospice of the Red River Valley are provided to everyone who qualifies for the medical guidelines of hospice care, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay.
5. When should I contact hospice; right before the last days of life?
Patients and families benefit most when hospice services are begun as soon as an individual learns of his or her terminal diagnosis. Hospice care, at any stage, but particularly early on, can significantly lighten the burden. Anyone may call for more information, at any time, with no obligation: (800) 237-4629.
6. Are hospice workers all volunteers?
No. Hospice care is provided by highly specialized professional staff, including registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains and grief specialists.
7. By choosing hospice, does it mean we’ve given up or have no hope?
With Hospice, the miracle isn’t the cure, it is in the caring. The focus of hope shifts to helping the patient achieve maximum physical comfort and peace of mind. The Hospice team members are pain and symptom management experts. They provide support and pain relief so families can share quality time and dignified, peaceful end-of-life experiences.
8. Should I wait to contact Hospice until my physician suggests hospice care?
We recommend you learn about your options as soon as you receive a terminal diagnosis. Anyone may call at any time to learn about Hospice’s services at no obligation. A physician’s order is ultimately required for admission to the Hospice program, but anyone can contact us at any time.
9. Isn’t hospice a place?
Not always. With Hospice of the Red River Valley, hospice is a concept of care. It is provided anywhere a person calls “home,” including nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, apartments and private residences.
10. Will entering a hospice make you die sooner?
No. Choosing hospice does not mean death is imminent. Hospice care neither hastens death nor prolongs life. Many people on hospice care enjoy better quality of life.