Hospice care is provided by a hospice service. The team includes a variety of healthcare professionals who work with the primary caregiver of the patient to provide them with care and support as and when needed.
Hospice Services for Patients
The goal of hospice care is to provide care and support to the patients who have only a few months to live and improve the quality of life. Each hospice care center might offer different services. Generally, these are some of the services patients will receive:
- Pain management
- Symptom control
- Social, emotional and psychological support
- Rehabilitation like occupational or physiotherapy to help the patient remain independent
- Massage therapy, music therapy, and aromatherapy
- Family care
- Bereavement care
- Nursing care
- Social worker services
- Dietary counseling
- Short-term inpatient care
- Respite care
The hospice care team includes social workers, doctors, nurses, therapists, hospice aids, volunteers, counselors, pharmacists, homemakers and of course, the family members of the patient.
A doctor and a hospice nurse are usually available on call 24 hours a day to support the patient and their family whenever they need assistance. The hospice team provides you with a hospice doctor. You are free to include your regular doctor, physician, or nurse on the medial team as well. They will act as attending medical professionals who will supervise the care.
Hospice care allows the patient and their family to stay together and get in-home care. Inpatient care is only provided when the patient needs it.
The Primary Caregiver
The primary caregiver is the patient’s family member or a close friend. They work together with the hospice team to develop a care plan according to the patient’s needs and preferences. They help make important decisions for the patient throughout the time they will receive hospice care. The primary caregiver is responsible for providing physical care to the patient. They may share the physical care responsibilities with caregivers from the hospice team or family members.
Who Pays For Hospice Care?
Hospice care is covered by Medicare through the Medicare Hospice Benefit. The Veteran’s Administration Benefits also cover hospice care. In some cases, Medicare covers the hospice care 100%.
Private insurance plans also cover some part of hospice care. Before getting insurance, check with your insurance company and ask them to share details about the types of plans they offer. This will let you know if they cover hospice services or not.
Each person may be considered eligible for hospice care on the basis of different eligibility criteria. The cost covered also vary as per your health plan.
Is Hospice Right for You or a Loved One?
Hospice care is appropriate for a terminally ill patient with a life expectancy of 6 months or less. The diagnoses are usually estimated. The patient might die sooner or live longer than 6 months. Experts suggest that the sooner a patient receives hospice care, the better. It improves the quality of their life and they might even live longer.
When the patient decides they want to receive hospice care, they pause the treatment of the underlying disease to seek comfort rather than the cure for the illness. Hospice treatment involves medication for alleviating pain, muscle cramps, nausea, itching, hiccups, and other symptoms. In some cases, aggressive treatments such as radiation, blood transfusion, and chemotherapy are also provided if the patient is experiencing extreme discomfort or pain.
How Long You Can Get Hospice Care?
Hospice care is for people who have 6 months or even less time left. If a patient is in hospice care and they get to live beyond 6 months, they will still receive hospice care.
If the illness of the patient goes into remission, they might not need hospice care anymore. The patient is free to revoke hospice care anytime they want.
What Hospice Does Not Do?
Hospice care is provided at home or in any other non-medical facility. However, there are certain services that hospice does not cover such as a room or board fees at senior communities.
The care does not involve treatment and surgeries for curing the disease. The focus is to provide comfort to the patient. The palliative care might offer pain medication but it does not involve treating the cause of the terminal illness. Your Medicare plan will also specify what is not covered by your hospice care plan.
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Plan For Hospice Care When You Are Healthy
The end of life decision is not something only your doctor should deal with. Going for hospice care does not mean that you have accepted death. This is one reason why patients and their families prolong this care. They only opt for it when they have a few months left. When the care is provided too late, they don’t receive the emotional support they deserve to accept the end of life process.
The decision to receive hospice care should be a family conversation. The patient must consult with their doctors, estate planning lawyers or financial advisors.
Entering hospice care is no doubt one of the most uncomfortable decisions a patient and their family has to make. It is never wise to wait for too long to seek specialized care. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, only 12% of the patients in hospice remain in the care for more than 180 days. The average length of the stay is less than 70 days. In such a limited time, it is hard for the hospice team to improve the patient’s quality of life.
Hospice Services For The Family
Hospice team takes special care of the needs of the family of the patient. The team provides education to the family and friends about the disease of their loved one, how it is progressing, what to expect and how can they help their loved ones throughout the process.
The family also receives counseling and emotional support to understand the process of death and accept it. Hospice care can also mend the relationship between patients and their loved ones. They get to spend the last days of their lives in a peaceful way.