Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is hospice care?
A: Hospice is a philosophy of care. It treats the person rather than the disease and focuses on quality of life. It surrounds the patient and family with a team consisting of professionals who not only address physical distress, but emotional and spiritual issues as well. Hospice care is patient-centered because the needs of the patient and family drive the activities of the hospice team.
Q: Who is best suited for hospice care?
A: Hospice patients are those with very serious medical conditions. Usually they have diseases that are life threatening and make day-to-day living very uncomfortable—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Some are in pain. Others experience difficult symptoms such as nausea, extreme fatigue, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may be caused by the disease, or they may have been caused by treatments intended to cure the disease. Often patients turn to hospice because they are anxious or depressed, or they are feeling spiritually distressed because of their medical condition. Hospice specializes in easing pain, discomfort, and distress on all levels. The care provided by hospice is often helpful for conditions such as cancer, heart disease, COPD (emphysema) and advanced dementia. Seriously ill patients who have decided that their priority is to have the best quality of life possible are the people who are best suited for hospice.
Q: Who pays?
A: Hospice care is paid and covered 100% by Medicare and Medicaid Advantage Hospice Benefit. In addition, most private insurance plans, HMO’s and other managed care plans have a hospice benefit. Our team can assist you in determining the coverage.
Q: Isn’t using hospice the same as “giving up”?
A: Not at all! This is one of the most common questions about hospice but it is actually a misconception. Although your loved one’s condition may have reached a point that a cure is not likely—or not likely enough to be worth the side effects of treatment—that does not mean there is nothing left to do. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her last month’s focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. As one man put it, “I’d rather spend my time with my children and grandchildren than waste my limited time and energy driving to the treatment center and recovering beside the toilet bowl.”
With the expert guidance of a nurse and case manager, as well as the assistance of bath aides, social workers, and chaplains, patients and families find they can focus on their relationships, healing old wounds and building wonderful memories together. Far from giving up, hospice helps families truly live well and support each other during a stressful, but, in the end, very natural family life passage.
Q: When is the best time to start hospice care?
A: Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier, that they needed the help much sooner than they received it. Research has shown that hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives. Families who receive hospice near the very end–just a few days to a week–have been shown to have a harder time adjusting during the bereavement period than do those whose loved one receives hospice care for weeks and months before passing on. If you even think that your family and the person you care for could benefit from pain or symptom management, assistance with bathing and grooming, emotional and spiritual support, and telephone access to caregiving advice, ask your physician if hospice might be a service to consider. Experts agree that at least two to three months of care is optimal. It is better to ask sooner rather than later so you do not regret having missed the support that hospice has to offer.
Q: How does hospice care work?
A: In most cases, a family member serves as the patient’s primary caregiver and helps make decisions for their loved one. The hospice care team, working together with the caregiver, develops a plan to provide treatment, pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, personal care and specialized services for both the patient and family. Hospice staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help meet your needs.
Q: How can I arrange to receive hospice services?
A: Anyone can make a referral for hospice care. Feel free to speak with your doctor, minister or a trusted friend when making this decision. You can also contact us to learn more about in-home hospice services and arrange a meeting to discuss our hospice program.
Q: What’s the hospice admissions process like?
A: Once you’ve expressed an interest in learning more about hospice care, one of our team members will contact you to discuss your needs and help determine your eligibility. Next, we’ll contact your doctor to discuss your decision and receive authorization to begin providing the in-home hospice services you’ve chosen. Finally, you’ll sign forms that are similar to the ones that you would sign before receiving any other special medical services.
Q: Does hospice help the family after the death of the patient?
A: Yes. Hospice provides continuing support for caregivers and families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also sponsor bereavement support groups, conduct memorial services and provide support for anyone in the community who has experienced the loss of a friend or loved one.
Q: How does hospice manage pain?
A: In hospice care, we believe that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real as physical pain. Hospice nurses and doctors use the most effective medications and devices to relieve pain and other symptoms. They are joined by specialists who are trained in physical therapy, music therapy, art therapy, massage therapy and nutritional counseling to help maintain patient comfort. Finally, various counselors, including clergy, help with emotional and spiritual support for patients and bereavement support for family members and caregivers.