Thousands of people diagnosed with terminal illnesses every year lose hope and live in misery and suffering. They have a chance to spend their golden years in a dignified way by choosing hospice care. The concept of hospice care encompasses the provision of medical care and pain management as well as emotional and spiritual support to the elderly. It also offers emotional support to their family members. The hospice care team is trained in providing end-of-life care to patients in their homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.
Statistics reveals that although 1.55 million Medicare beneficiaries received hospice care in 2018, 53.8% of them received care for only 30 days or less. A quarter of the beneficiaries received care for only seven days or less which is too short a period for patients to benefit from the special care provided by the hospice.
Hospice Acts as an Additional Layer of Support
Hospice care refers to a special kind of care that focuses on improving the quality of life for people who have been diagnosed with and are experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness. It involves the provision of compassionate care to people in their last stages of diseases or illnesses that are not curable to enable them to live a life as comfortable as possible. The main feature of hospice care is that it accepts death as an inevitable happening but helps the patient to live in a dignified manner.
Hospice care is not limited to caring for patients but also supporting their family members and caregivers through education, assistance with day-to-day care, and emotional, spiritual and long-term grief support. The primary focus of the hospice team is patients’ comfort to support their caregivers, and this often results in peaceful deaths and some very meaningful moments. Studies have also shown that terminally ill patients receiving hospice care can live longer than patients who do not receive hospice.
Hospice care also includes taking care of the patient at a facility for some time, not because the patient needs it but because the family or the caregiver needs a break. This type of care is called respite care.
When is Hospice Care Needed?
Hospice care is for patients who have been diagnosed with an illness or disease such as cancer whose treatment is no longer possible. Generally, hospice care is used when a patient is expected to live for only six months or less in case the illness runs its normal course. It involves managing symptoms and side effects of illness. The decision to go for hospice care can be on the physician’s recommendation or a family members’ if there is no further scope for treating the illness or disease.
The hospice staff usually visits the patient or the person as often as it is required and is also available around the clock. The hospice services include visits by doctors, nurses, social workers, attendants, occupational and speech therapists, pharmacists, and nutritionists. The team also includes trained bereavement counselors who offer support and guidance to the family after the death of the person in hospice care.
The cost of hospice services is generally covered under Medicare or insurance but only after a doctor certifies that the person is expected to live less than six months. Hospice care can be discontinued if the person’s health improves or he/she wants to try treatment again. The extent of services offered, however, depends on the need of the people and not their ability to pay.
Some indications that a person requires hospice care:
- Rapid decline in health over last six months despite treatments
- An increase in falls
- Progressive weight loss
- Deterioration in mental abilities
- Inability or reduced ability to perform normal daily tasks
- A sharp deterioration in the overall health
How to Choose a Hospice Program?
Before finalizing a hospice program, check the answer to the following questions:
- Is the program Medicare-certified and is it accredited by the Joint Commission?
- Who all are included in the hospice care team?
- Is residential hospice available?
- What services are included and how are pain and other symptoms managed?
- How long does it take to get accepted in the hospice program?
- Are respite care services included in the program?
- Does it include bereavement services?
- Is it possible to take hospice services in different settings?
Hospice services focus on providing the best care rather than curing a person. Their goal is to provide comfort in the last days of life.