Death and dying is a difficult subject to broach, even (or especially) in the medical field, where the goal of patient treatment is curative. When treatment is not likely to add quality to a person’s life, it may be best to consider what can be done to offer the best quality of life for the remainder of time each person has. Hospice is an underutilized service that can provide hope and comfort to the terminally ill wherever they call home.
What is Hospice? Hospice is not a place but a philosophy of care for treatment of terminally ill people. It employs the “caring model” of care as opposed to the “curing model.” The care hospice provides is symptom driven, meaning that disease symptoms are managed to meet the needs, goals, and comfort of the person. It is a holistic type of care that encompasses not only the terminal person but their loved ones as well. It is designed to provide support and comfort to the dying person (those with any life limiting diagnosis of six months or less to live) and their families in the comfort of their home, surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice is about quality of life and treating the person as an individual with goals and dreams.
When is the right time to call hospice? Hospice is suitable when a medical prognosis concludes that a person has six months or less to live. Most people are on hospice for three weeks or less. We hear people and families say that they wished they would have taken advantage of hospice sooner to improve their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.
“You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of life and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully but also to live until you die.” Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement
Families do not have to wait to call hospice when death is imminent. Hospice can provide months or even years of holistic care as long as your medical prognosis continues to be six months or less to live.
When is hospice available? Hospice is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year.
How much does it cost? Hospice is covered by most insurance companies and Medicaid. If over the age of 65, the Medicare hospice benefit covers 100% of the expenses of hospice care.
What should I look for in choosing a hospice provider? The best hospices offer a direct line to nurses to consult with after hours. Continuous comfort care should be used when a client has an exacerbation of any symptom. With continuous comfort care, a nurse will be sent to the client’s bedside for a minimum of 8 hours to get symptoms under control. This avoids unnecessary trips to an emergency department. All hospice providers offer continuous comfort care by law, but may under-utilize it.
Partnering with Hospice is not about giving up but rather it is a about taking control of your life, and meeting goals. It’s a layer of support for you and your family.