Patients facing a terminal illness often consider hospice care to help maintain the best possible quality of life during their final days, weeks or months. Hospice philosophy focuses on keeping patients comfortable and providing compassionate care during the end of life. Entering hospice doesn’t hasten death. Instead, it involves an acceptance of the terminal diagnosis and an attempt to face the end of life with dignity.
The patient’s wishes are a primary concern during hospice care. For some, the ability to manage symptoms at home and reduce hospital visits may be a priority. Others may prioritize reducing the burden on family caregivers or remaining in a family home. The goal of Three Oaks Hospice is to always accommodate the wishes of the patient and family.
Hospice is an option for patients with a wide range of terminal conditions. Individuals with renal disease, neurological diseases, dementia, pulmonary disease, heart disease, AIDS or cancer may qualify for hospice. Three Oaks Hospice provides tailored care for individuals with these and other conditions.
Hospice Eligibility Conditions
What Is Hospice Care?
Hospice care is a type of end-of-life care intended for individuals diagnosed with a chronic disease who have an expected lifespan of 6 months or less. Patients entering hospice care have halted all treatment intended to cure the illness, such as radiation treatment for cancer patients or organ transplants. They may still be treated for symptoms such as pain and nausea, and many patients continue to take medication designed to relieve symptoms of their disease.
The main goals of hospice are symptom management and patient comfort. The hospice care team works with the patient and family members to coordinate care.
In addition to nurses, therapists and social workers, hospice team members may include trained volunteers who assist with household tasks or provide companionship. Spiritual support may be provided by a clergy member on the hospice care team.
Here are a few other benefits a hospice program might include.
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Hospice providers don’t provide medical care directly, but they may assist with obtaining and setting up medical equipment for the patient. Hospice care organizations also stock medical supplies, such as bed pads and medical gloves, so patients and families don’t need to acquire these items separately.
Emotional and Spiritual Support
Advanced illness often comes with emotional and mental turmoil. Because hospice care focuses on the whole individual, it also includes therapy related to emotional issues surrounding a terminal diagnosis and end-of-life concerns. Supportive care may also include spiritual support provided by a clergy member on staff.
The hospice team can help family caregivers learn more about their loved one’s illness and provide advice and education related to care for specific disease symptoms.
Assistance With Daily Activities
Patients with a serious illness often have trouble with activities such as personal grooming and household tasks. One goal of hospice is to assist with day-to-day care, so hospice staff may help patients complete activities such as cooking, cleaning, using the restroom, bathing and home dental care.
During respite care, the hospice team temporarily takes over the duties of a primary caregiver to give that family member a short break.
Temporary Inpatient Hospice Care
Hospice staff may provide services during a temporary hospital stay.
A terminal diagnosis often brings up strong emotions in patients and family members. Specific services aimed at easing the loss, including grief counseling, are available to the patient’s family for up to 13 months after the patient’s death.
How Long Is Hospice Care?
Hospice care typically lasts weeks or months, but individuals who exceed their anticipated life spans may remain in hospice through the end of life. The hospice team typically comes to the place where the patient lives, which may be a family home, an assisted living facility or a nursing home during the duration of care.
The decision to begin hospice care can be complicated, particularly if the terminally ill individual is unsure whether to cease medical treatment. It’s usually a good idea to discuss hospice decisions with the patient’s caregiver and medical team shortly after a diagnosis of a serious illness. Discussing the options ahead of time ensures everyone is prepared when the time comes to move into a hospice.
For patients with a serious illness that doesn’t qualify as terminal, palliative care is another option. Palliative care provides many of the same benefits and services as hospice care, but it’s intended for patients who have a longer life expectancy and opt to continue medical care aimed at directly treating the disease. Some private insurance companies provide coverage for both hospice and palliative care.
How Do You Qualify for Hospice Care?
Patients are usually referred to hospice or palliative care by a primary doctor. Family members may want to initiate a discussion about hospice options before a physician brings up the topic.
Qualifications for hospice care include:
- A terminal diagnosis
- An expected life span of 6 months or less
- A decision to cease all curative treatment
There may also be disease-specific qualifications for hospice care. Individuals with advanced cancer, heart disease or COPD may experience functional decline that indicates a failure of treatment. Symptoms such as nonresponse to treatment, significant weight loss, frequent infections, repeated hospitalizations or an increase in clinical markers related to disease progression may indicate a need for hospice or palliative care.
After a referral, the hospice care team meets with the patient and family caregivers to assess the patient’s needs. A social worker is assigned to manage the patient’s case. Care is coordinated with the patient’s regular healthcare professionals. Hospice care is provided at the patient’s home, so no travel is required to access services.
Medicaid, Medicare and private health insurance often provide full coverage for hospice services. Contact your health insurance provider for details on specific coverage for hospice and palliative care.
If you or a loved one is in need of hospice care, contact us for more information about local hospice options.