Hospice care in the United States is a specialized form of health care for patients who are facing a life-limiting illness, their families and caregivers. Hospice care is designed to focus on enhancing a patient’s quality of life by managing a patient’s level of pain and other symptoms. Additionally, hospice care can provide emotional, mental and spiritual support in addition to symptom management. The hospice care model relies on an interdisciplinary team which can include physicians, nurses, social workers and spiritual aids. Choosing to elect hospice care and/or palliative care can greatly enhance the quality of life for a patient and their loved ones.
Is hospice for those with cancer only?
No. Hospice professionals provide care for patients diagnosed with a wide range of life-limiting illnesses past various forms of cancer such as lung disease, dementias, heart disease and many other diseases/disorders.
Hospice is NOT a place.
Specialized hospice and palliative care can be provided in many settings. Oftentimes, patients can receive hospice and palliative care services at their home, a nursing facility or a long term care facility. The hospice philosophy is to enhance the quality of life of a patient as best able regardless of setting. In situations where a patient is receiving hospice care services at a facility other than a patient’s or caregiver’s home such as a nursing facility, the hospice care provider and other facility will have a written agreement in place so that a patient may receive services from both organizations.
How does hospice care begin?
In many cases, hospice care can begin as soon as a formal request or a “referral” is given. A representative of the hospice care provider will typically visit the patient within 48 hours of receiving the referral and physician’s approval. In urgent situations, hospice care can begin sooner. Patients and family members may also choose to “self-refer” and issue a request for an evaluation for receiving hospice care services.
What specific assistance does hospice provide?
The hospice care model is designed to enhance the overall quality of life for a patient by addressing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. This is done by providing patients access to various professionals that can include various physicians, nurses, social workers, home aides, counselors, spiritual counselors and volunteers. Additionally, hospice can help to provide medications, medical equipment/supplies, hospital services and other forms of assistance as deemed appropriate.
How does hospice “manage pain?”
Hospice nurses and physicians focus heavily on the physical comfort of a patient through management of pain and other symptoms. Hospice professionals are aware of the best medications, devices and are trained how to best implement them in order to benefit the patient. Enhancing quality of life extends past physical pain. Hospice care professionals will make every attempt to make a patient mobile and self-sufficient. Emotional, mental and spiritual needs are also considered and various therapies can be implemented to help the patient understand and cope with their situation as best able.
Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?
Your hospice provider will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain it. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the patient’s needs change. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient and safe as possible.
Is hospice care covered by insurance?
Financial coverage for hospice and palliative care services is widely available throughout the United States. The Medicare benefit is a national health benefit provided by the federal government, and in many states the Medicaid benefit in addition to most private health insurance policies will cover hospice care services. Patients and families should always consult their employers or health insurance providers to confirm their coverage. Hospice care providers will always help families determine their coverage and may also have other ways to assist with care.
When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made—and who should make it?
The final decision to elect hospice care is made by the patient. However, patients should discuss their options with their families and caregivers because they will play an important role during their treatment. Deciding to begin care is a very sensitive and important issues and physicians and hospice professionals are valuable resources for determining when the time is right.
What is Palliative Care?
Many individuals in the U.S. are not familiar with the term “palliative” care. Palliative care is a medical speciality that focuses on management of the physical and emotional impacts of a serious illness. Although they are very similar, hospice care and palliative care are not the same thing. Hospice care is a form of palliative care that is only available to patients with a terminal diagnosis. It is essential for patients to know that you DO NOT have to stop curative treatments to receive palliative care. Patients who are facing severe pain and other symptoms due to illness or other medical treatments should investigate palliative care services in order to enhance their level of comfort and overall quality of life.