Did you know that people who are facing a life-limiting illness and receive hospice care tend to live longer than people who choose not to elect hospice care? AARP reported on a study that people who had a terminal illness and received hospice care lived longer – in some cases, almost three months longer than people who did not have the support of a hospice team. Hospice care truly focuses on life and strives to increase quality of life though symptom management and emotional and spiritual support, and it empowers the family by making an end-of-life expert available 24 hours a day.
Hospice Care: It’s All About Life
People are sometimes reluctant to explore the possibility of hospice care because they mistakenly believe that it means giving up or surrendering control of their medical care. In reality, hospice care is patient-focused care that strives to meet the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of both the patient and their family. It offers an individual facing a terminal diagnosis a chance to assemble a health care team that will work with them to craft a care plan that meets their unique health care needs. With hospice care, the focus shifts from cure to comfort, but the patient remains in control of their care. In fact, if the patient shows unexpected improvement or simply decides that hospice care is not for them, the service can be ended at any time.
HOW DOES HOSPICE CARE WORK?
Qualifying for Hospice Care
For a patient to be eligible for Medicare’s hospice benefit, certain conditions must be met. Two doctors must certify that the patient has a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months or less. The patient has to sign a statement indicating their decision to accept hospice care in lieu of other Medicare-covered benefits for treatment of their terminal illness. Benefits for the treatment of conditions not related to their terminal illness remain unchanged. What happens if the patient outlives expectations? Hospice care is not limited to a six-month period, so there is no need to fret about entering hospice too soon. Patients can continue to receive the care that they need as long as the hospice physician recertifies they still meet the Medicare guidelines for hospice services. However, it is important to note that all care for the terminal illness must be coordinated with the hospice team.
A Team Approach
Hospice care is multidisciplinary in nature. It uses a team approach to create and implement a customized care plan and provide a continuity of care. Everyone on the hospice team contributes their expertise as they work together to maintain or improve the patient’s quality of life by managing the symptoms of complex illnesses and conditions. The members of a hospice care team include the patient, their family, and an assortment of medical professionals and volunteers. Hospice doctors and nurses or nurse practitioners are on hand to offer support and guidance as needed. Hospice aides, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers offer invaluable assistance that can make a difficult time easier for the patient and their loved ones. Counselors, psychologists, pharmacists, speech-language pathologists, nutritionists, and physical and occupational therapists may participate if the patient is likely to benefit from their services.
Care That Comforts
How does hospice care work? When people think of health care, they often tend to picture either preventative care, which works to prevent a disease or condition, or curative care, which is intended to cure an ill or produce a healing effect. Hospice care has a distinctly different goal: comfort. To achieve this, hospice professionals tackle a wide range of tasks. While hospice care can be provided in health care facilities, this type of care is often provided in the home so that the patient can better maintain control of their surroundings as they enjoy their own space, set their own schedule, and have easy access to their personal belongings. The exact nature of the services rendered depends on the specific patient’s needs and desires. The following are examples of some of the services hospice provides:
- Skilled nursing visits, which focus on pain and symptom management
- Social worker and chaplain visits centered around spiritual and emotional support as well as end-of-life planning and finding additional resources, if needed
- Aide visits to assist with bathing and personal care
- Medical equipment such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and walkers
- Medications related to the hospice terminal illness
- Short-term respite care in a nursing facility when arranged by the hospice team
- Counseling for the patient and their loved ones
- Other services deemed necessary by the hospice team to manage the terminal illness
Why Choose Hospice?
Choosing hospice allows people who are on the final part of their journey to face this time with dignity, respect, and comfort. Hospice care allows the family members to have the peace and knowledge of knowing they have the support of a team of experts walking alongside them as this journey continues. When you choose hospice, you truly choose life.