When a patient has less than 6 months to live, doctors suggest getting hospice care. It’s the comfort care that focuses on pain management and making the patient enjoy a good quality of life for the time they have left.
Medicare has defined 4 different levels of hospice care. Each level offers different benefits to the patients and their family. They are:
- Routine home care
- Continuous home care
- General inpatient care
- Respite care
1: Routine home care
This type of care is for patients who don’t have symptoms that are out of control. Their controllable symptoms include pain, nausea, acute respiratory distress, bleeding, vomiting, agitation or restlessness.
The patient is visited by nurses, social workers, counselors, health aid, chaplain, medications and provided with equipment as and when needed. The patient’s needs are outlined in a health care plan formulated by the hospice team and their physician. The medical staff is available on-call 24 hours a day.
2: Continuous home care
This level of hospice care is provided is at the patient’s home in case they are suffering from uncontrolled symptoms. They will receive continuous care of nurses until their situation is better.
The type of care offered here is similar to inpatient care except that the patient stays at their home. The hospice provides a nurse who stays with the patient around the clock to take care of their symptoms.
24/7 care is provided in case the patient is experiencing the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Severe pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breakdown of the primary caregiver support system
3: General inpatient care
When a patient’s symptoms are getting out of hand and they can no longer be managed at home, they are taken to inpatient care. The hospice facility takes aggressive actions for controlling the symptoms and making the patient comfortable again.
Depending on the situation, the patient might be placed in acute hospital care or a temporary hospice facility. The patient’s physician and hospice team ensures that they get maximum comfort. Once the symptoms are under control, the patient is returned back to their routine care.
4: Respite care
This level of care is temporary and it’s actually designed to benefit the family of the caregivers. The patient receives inpatient care for short-term basis. Sometimes, the primary caregiver of the patient needs a break or have to attend a wedding, funeral or graduation ceremony, etc. Since the patient is terminally ill, they cannot be left unattended. In such a situation, the patient is taken in respite care for a limited number of days. It is usually for 5 consecutive days.
The patient is admitted in a hospice facility until their family returns. Respite care is not provided to all patients. It’s only meant for qualifying hospice patients. However, it can provide relief to the family and free them from the worry of their loved one for a while.
Not every caregiver needs a break, therefore, respite care is not provided to everyone. Caregivers are provided relief by other means. The hospice team members can help family members with tasks such as running errands, take the patient for a walk or to meet their friends.
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Choosing the Right Type of Care for Your Loved One
Every person has unique needs and therefore, they will need a care plan tailored according to their medical condition as well as desires. Some patients only need minor assistance with their daily activities while others constant care.
If you are unable to decide which care is right for you or your loved one, you can talk to your physician also. Learn about each type of care on your own and match the facilities provided as per the condition of your loved one. This will help you narrow down the right type of care.
Many people have misconceptions about hospice. It is true that it’s meant for terminally ill patients. However, the goal of the care is to provide comfort and improve their quality of life.
Hospice care does not mean you are giving up on life. Even though the patient when enters hospice care stops curative treatment, they can start that treatment anytime they think they are feeling physically and emotionally stable to continue.