If you’re faced with the decision to begin hospice care for a loved one, it means you’re coming to terms with their impending demise. You’ll be part of the closing act of their life, and it should be comforting to know that the goal of every hospice worker is to create a safe, pain-free, and peaceful finale.
Often, when people think of hospice care, they picture frail, elderly, cancer-ridden patients, and while that is quite often the case, it’s not always true. There are people of all ages suffering from a variety of ailments and injuries who require hospice care because their condition is terminal.
Hospice care doesn’t mean that curable conditions like bladder infections and pneumonia won’t be treated. It does mean, however, that they’re not going to try to cure the terminal illness with aggressive treatment that offers little if any benefit.
How to Know it’s The Right Time
If you’re the primary care giver, there are a number of signs of decline that may lead you to inquire about hospice care. Every case is different, but in general, the following indicators of failing health should be noted and passed on the patient’s doctor:
- Continued weight loss
- Increased pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Gradual decrease in eating and fluid intake
- Shortness of breath
- Increased confusion
There are also medical guidelines for qualification for hospice care:
- Two physicians have to agree on a six-month prognosis
- The patient has ceased aggressive curative treatment
- The physician recommends, but the patient or designated power of attorney decides
- The patient always has the right to reinstate traditional treatment
- Hospice care does not prolong or hasten death
What are the Benefits of Hospice Care?
One of the most appreciated benefits comes from caregivers who no longer feel alone. In addition, hospice programs generally provide:
- A team comprised of a nurse, doctor, and social worker
- Clergy can be provided if desired
- Pharmaceutical pain management
- Medical supplies and equipment
- Constant care in times of crisis
- Bereavement services
How Does Hospice Help Caregivers?
Most often, it is spouses or adult children who are primary caregivers. In-home hospice provides support and guidance and works in conjunction with the caregiver.
Hospice nurses understand that the caregiver is a vital link between all parties involved – hospice, the patient, the caregiver, and other family members. Hospice provides support in the form of:
- Instruction related to patient care
- Emotional support
- Respite care
- 24/7 on-call nursing for questions and emergencies
- Grief counseling when the time comes
Hospice is Provided in a Variety of Environments
In-home hospice patients have all the benefits of a hospice program, plus, they’re in their own home – no small thing.
In Nursing Homes
Nursing home patients who meet the criteria for hospice care are able to remain in familiar surroundings as the shift is made to palliative care provided by qualified hospice nurses.
In Freestanding Hospice Facilities
Hospice facilities are often the best answer for families who are unable to accommodate the medical equipment and supplies, cannot be home to care for the patient, or who need a freestanding facility for any number of valid reasons.
Hospice care in the hospital is often started prior to discharge to home, where the care will continue. Often, the care is short-term because death is imminent.
Don’t Assume You Can’t Afford Hospice Care
Coverage for hospice is available through:
- In many States, through Medicaid
- Private Insurance
- Some hospices that run on donations that provide free services or payment based on ability to pay
…Death and Taxes
People face their demise in different ways. Religious beliefs provide peace to many people. Others believe they’ll be going into the great unknown. Then there are those that see the end as just a poof and they’re gone.
But before they go, if they receive hospice care, their pain will be lessened, they’ll be symptom free, and they’ll have time to make their wishes known. They’ll be able to focus on spending time with family members as they reunite and reminisce. It’s not uncommon for the sound of laughter to ring out from a hospice patient’s room.