WHAT IS HOSPICE?
Hospice is not a “place” – it is a set of specialized services to help patients and families cope with a terminal illness.
Hospices specialize in serving patients with a terminal illness. While these illnesses are not curable, a lot can be done to make patients more comfortable and help them do things that are important to them at this stage of their life.
The focus of hospice care is on improving and maintaining patients’ and their families’ quality of life. By expertly managing pain and other symptoms, hospice helps individuals to live as well as possible.
Hospice care uses a team approach to patient care. Hospice staff includes doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, spiritual care providers and other healthcare professionals.
IS HOSPICE CARE COVERED BY INSURANCE?
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, by Medicaid in California, and by most private insurance providers. To be sure of coverage, families should contact One Health and we will verify insurance instantly to see if your loved one qualifies.
IS CARING FOR THE PATIENT AT HOME THE ONLY PLACE HOSPICE CARE CAN BE DELIVERED?
No. Hospice patients receive care in their personal residences, nursing homes, hospital hospice units and inpatient hospice centers.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO ASK ABOUT HOSPICE?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect from hospice services. Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
HOW DOES HOSPICE CARE BEGIN?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by the patient’s doctor. Often a hospice program representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family/primary caregiver. Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral. However, in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.
IS HOSPICE AVAILABLE AFTER HOURS?
Hospice care is available ‘on-call’ after the administrative office has closed, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Most hospices have nurses available to respond to a call for help within minutes, if necessary. Some hospice programs have chaplains and social workers on call as well.
HOW DOES THE HOSPICE WORK TO KEEP THE PATIENT COMFORTABLE?
Many patients may have pain and other serious symptoms as illness progresses. Hospice staff receives special training to care for all types of physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress. Because keeping the patient comfortable and pain-free is an important part of hospice care, many hospice programs have developed ways to measure how comfortable the patient is during the course of their stay in hospice. Hospice staff works with the patient’s physician to make sure that medication, therapies, and procedures are designed to achieve the goals outlined in the patient’s care plan. The care plan is reviewed frequently to make sure any changes and new goals are in the plan.
WHAT ROLE DOES THE HOSPICE VOLUNTEER SERVE
Hospice volunteers are generally available to provide different types of support to patients and their loved ones including running errands, preparing light meals, staying with a patient to give family members a break, and lending emotional support and companionship to patients and family members.
Because hospice volunteers spend time in patients’ and families’ homes, each hospice program generally has an application and interview process to assure the person is right for this type of volunteer work. In addition, hospice programs have an organized training program for their patient care volunteers. Areas covered by these training programs often include understanding hospice, confidentiality, working with families, listening skills, signs and symptoms of approaching death, loss and grief and bereavement support.
CAN I BE CARED FOR BY HOSPICE IF I RESIDE IN A NURSING FACILITY OR OTHER TYPE OF LONG TERM CARE FACILITY?
Hospice services can be provided to a terminally ill person wherever they live. This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility can receive specialized visits from hospice nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers, and volunteers, in addition to other care and services provided by the nursing facility. The hospice and the nursing home will have a written agreement in place in order for the hospice to serve residents of the facility.
DO STATE AND FEDERAL REVIEWERS INSPECT AND EVALUATE HOSPICE?
Yes. There are state licensure requirements that must be met by hospice programs in order for them to deliver care. In addition, hospices must comply with federal regulations in order to be approved for reimbursement under Medicare. Hospices must periodically undergo inspection to be sure they are meeting regulatory standards in order to maintain their license to operate and the certification that permits Medicare reimbursement.
Still have questions about hospice care? Fill out our contact form or call one of our locations and we will be happy to address all of your questions and concerns.