Organizing hospice care for a loved one in a different state has unique challenges. Although there are obvious obstacles to overcome, it is possible to organize quality end-of-life care for a patient who is residing in a state other than your own. Successfully organizing end-of-life care for someone across state lines requires organization, communication, and careful planning. Keep reading to learn how to tackle obtaining hospice care for your loved one in a different state.
When is Hospice Care Necessary?
A patient is eligible for hospice care when they have been given a diagnosis of six months of life or less. Starting the Hospice Conversation with a loved one who is struggling with a life-limiting is never easy, but it will help to prepare everyone who is involved. Professional discussions about hospice care can be initiated by physicians or, patients can bring up the topic on their own. Every illness presents itself differently and there is a broad spectrum of factors that physicians will assess before recommending hospice care. Some broad signs that doctors use to determine whether their patient is ready for hospice care include but are not limited to:
- Considerable weight loss
- Decreased alertness, appetite, and/or fluid intake
- Frequent hospitalization, and inability to fully recover after illness
- Inability to perform daily activities of living such as bathing, eating, walking, and using the restroom by themselves
The decision to elect hospice care does not always come easily. It is natural for patients and their families to wrestle with their options before determining what is best decision. Hospice care should not be seen as “giving up.” The focus of hospice care is to enhance the overall quality-of-life of a patient for as long as possible. Especially when elected early, hospice can provide a sense of relief to both patients and families.
Researching and Organizing Hospice in a Different State
When helping a loved one acquire hospice care services in a state other than your own, there are some clear steps that you can take and rules that you can follow to ensure that their transition into hospice is as stress free as possible.
Choose a Reputable Hospice Provider
Nationwide, hospice care providers have dedicated themselves to helping patients achieve the best quality-of-life possible while also providing support and guidance for family members. This is why selecting a provider is such a critical step in the process of organizing hospice care for a loved one in a different state.
The hospice care professionals who will oversee your loved one will be charged with properly managing their pain and other uncomfortable physical symptoms, in addition to attending to their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Because of the importance of the role that providers play, it is essential that you feel comfortable entrusting them with the care of your loved one.
Researching Hospice Care Providers
Finding the hospice care provider that best suits the needs of your loved one may seem like an overwhelming task, but there are numerous strategies you can pursue in order to find the ideal patient/provider fit:
- Reaching out to a friend or family member in the area who has gone through the same process may make the choice easier. They may have useful information on reliable local providers.
- Talk to the patient’s attending physician to find out if their practice has a good relationship with any local hospice providers.
- Perform online research on which hospice providers are available in the patient’s local area.
- Gathering information on what provider options are available is a valuable first step. But, you will need to investigate much more deeply. Make a list of the hospice care providers that you’ve found and once it’s complete, set up interviews via phone so that you can get a better understanding of the provider.
If you can narrow your list down to a few options, present the different options to your loved one who will be receiving care to gain their input. Different providers have different appeals but considering and acknowledging the patient’s preferences should be front and center of the decision.
Communication is Key
Communication is essential between you and the hospice care staff when coordinating care from a distance. Make sure to keep an open line of communication so that you can effectively address any concerns you might have regarding the patient or the care being provided. Provide the hospice care the patient’s full medical history (the more detailed and extensive, the better). The more knowledge a patient’s hospice care team has, the more effective the care plan can be.
Using Technology to Stay in the Loop
Even though communicating with and organizing hospice care for your loved one in a different state prevents unique challenges, innovations in technology can allow you to more easily communicate with your loved one with a computer and a video camera. Regular communication can help bolster the morale of your loved one.
Understanding how to use cloud-based storage systems such as Google Drive or Dropbox can also allow the patient and the individuals organizing care to easily store and share important documents from afar. With a simple touch of a button, teleconferences can be held between the organizer of hospice care, the patient and loved ones, and the provider or other key personnel so that everyone involved is on the same page.
Common video streaming communication programs such as Apple’s Facetime or Skype (to name a few) can facilitate direct communication which has more value than a phone chat or text message. To actually see and be seen by your loved is important to a lot of people.
The Value of Planning Ahead
Planning some critical details ahead of time can save a lot of frustration and misunderstanding when it is time to carry out a loved one’s wishes. It is important to have advance directives in place so there is less confusion about what should happen during certain situations. Advance care planning can provide clear instructions for emergency situations and for after death.
Having advance directives in place decreases the stress and anxiety of patients and family members because, ideally, everyone can avoid confusion on what to do when there is a plan in place for each situation. Going through the process of planning someone’s goals for end-of-life care before it eventually happens will give the patient control over their own care, and also how things are to be handled after their passing such as memorial services and living wills.
The existence of a living will can outline specific wishes and desired courses of medical treatment to medical professionals and a patient’s family, for when a patient is too ill to communicate these wishes.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney (also commonly known as a “healthcare power of attorney”) is awarded to a person who can make medical decisions on a patient’s behalf when or if a patient is unable to. For instance, if a patient can no longer speak, or is in a comatose state, the medical power of attorney is the person in charge of making decisions about your health care. Your medical power of attorney can take charge of your medical care after any accident or illness leads to an inability to make your own decisions.
A patient may want to have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in place if they go into respiratory or cardiac arrest which would otherwise require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This written order must be signed by a physician before it is valid. While requesting a DNR order, the doctor may also ask if a patient wants a Do Not Intubate (DNI) order. Patients may also desire a DNI order for when breathing problems develop that would otherwise require a flexible plastic breathing tube to be hooked up to a ventilator which pushes oxygen into the lungs. The intubation tube is inserted into the mouth, nose, windpipe, or trachea and has the possibility of preventing respiratory or cardiac arrest.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice for More Information on Hospice!
Even though your loved one requires hospice care in a different state or even all the way across the country, Harbor Light Hospice provides the benefits of our extensive experience with helping family members coordinate hospice care from afar and serves patients and families in 9 different states across the US. Having access to a dependable hospice provider that understands the value of timely communication can make a significant positive difference in the lives of your loved one and your family.
For more information on how Harbor Light Hospice can keep you in touch with your loved one and up-to-date on the current state of their hospice care or quality end-of-life care services we provide, contact us online or give us a call today.