Hospice care is a type of care given to patients with life-limiting illnesses as they enter the final stage of life. When treatment aimed at curing a serious illness becomes too much for a patient to handle or is no longer working, hospice care presents an attractive alternative to get them through their final days or months. Instead of curing a disease, it is aimed at improving the patient’s quality of life and alleviating their suffering as they let the illness run its natural course. Here is what to expect from at-home hospice care.
What Is At-Home Hospice Care?
Many people think of hospice as a place, but it is actually a type of care and is most often given in the patient’s own home. A Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care study shows that four fifths of patients suffering from a chronic disease report they would prefer to avoid hospitalization and intensive care while dying, and hospice can honor patients’ wishes to remain in the comfort of their homes.
What sets hospice care apart from other types of care is its holistic approach. It is designed to address patients’ spiritual, emotional and mental needs in addition to their physical symptoms.
Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most types of private insurance. In order to qualify, patients generally must have received a diagnosis of six months or less to live.
What To Expect
The process gets underway quickly once a patient or their family decides to begin hospice care. The hospice team will have a social worker or admissions nurse meet with the family immediately to discuss the patient and family needs and draft a plan of care. Some of the topics for discussion include staff visits and necessary medications and medical supplies.
During the first few days, the patient’s hospice care team will meet with them individually in their home to determine a schedule of regular visits.
Emotional, Spiritual And Religious Support
End-of-life care is about more than simply checking vital signs and administering medication. Hospice care recognizes and addresses the emotional toll this situation can take on patients, addressing issues like depression, anger and anxiety. It also helps patients deal with regrets over things they have (or have not) said or done during their lifetime. Hospice social workers will work with the patient and listen to their stories while addressing their concerns.
Hospice can also provide spiritual care in the form of chaplains who can answer questions about faith and address other spiritual concerns in a way that aligns with the patient’s beliefs. Staff are also trained to help veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress as the end of their life approaches.
Regular Visits From Hospice Care Team
Hospice patients have access to an interdisciplinary team made up of hospice aides, registered nurses, chaplains, social workers and volunteers. The patient and their family will work with the hospice team to develop a plan for visits that is suited to the patient.
The frequency of visits will be determined by the person’s medical condition as their illness progresses and their needs change. In addition, hospice patients have access to an on-call service that is available 24 hours per day. All hospices have nurses who can respond to calls for help within minutes, and some also keep social workers and chaplains on call.
Delivery Of Necessary Medication
Hospice services can coordinate the ordering, delivery and setup of the medication a patient needs to alleviate their symptoms. This allows patients and their families to focus on enjoying their time together rather than having to leave terminally ill patients home alone to go to the pharmacy to buy medication.
Home Medical Equipment
In addition to necessary medication, hospice services can help patients obtain medical equipment such as hospital beds, oxygen, shower chairs, wheelchairs, bedside commodes and geriatric recliners. Medical supplies can also be obtained, such as bandages, continence care supplies, oxygen tubing and supplies, personal care products, positioning devices, gloves and wet wipes.
Hospice teams will provide patients and their caregivers with education on the proper use of all the medical equipment and supplies they deliver. Their staff is also readily available to answer questions about equipment and supplies by phone. They will monitor the use of supplies and arrange for replenishments as needed. The medical equipment and supplies related to the hospice patient’s terminal diagnosis are 100 percent covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances.
Start Your Hospice Care Journey Today
If your loved one is approaching the end of their life with a terminal illness, start the hospice care journey today to get the support you need to help them enjoy their final days in comfort and peace. The compassionate team at Harbor Light Hospice is prepared to answer all your questions about the process and explain how their services can help your loved one and your family during this challenging time.