Hospice Can Enhance Well-Being for Everyone Involved
Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Tue, Nov 12th 2013
Hospice is one of those words that we tiptoe around, afraid that by saying it too loudly, we might call forth its need. Yet hospice is nothing to be frightened of in the world of wellness. In fact, hospice is an underutilized service that can bring emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing not only to someone who is dying, but also to the whole family. It can be a source of multidimensional support during a very difficult time.
Here are some things you might not know about hospice care:
According to the Hospice Foundation of America, hospice is a unique model of care that focuses on pain relief, physical comfort, and emotional and spiritual support. It's really a one-stop center for all of a family's needs when someone is facing the end of life.
While hospice usually is provided during the last six months of life, doctors understand that predicting how long one has to live can be tricky. Don't worry that it's too soon to call hospice - the agency will evaluate your situation and advise you on whether or not it's appropriate to proceed at this time.
Hospice can occur anywhere. Some agencies have live-in facilities that provide only hospice care. But most of the time, hospice care is provided wherever the person is residing - at home, in assisted living, in a nursing home, etc.
Hospice care is available 24/7. A structured schedule will be developed so you know which staff will be arriving when, but you can call a hospice agency any time, day or night (even at 3 AM), if there is an emergency or if you simply need to talk. All hospice agencies have people on call around the clock.
Hospice staff are often right there with you and your family at the time of death to help you understand the dying process and to provide emotional and/or spiritual support (they are respectful of your privacy as well). Many families describe how helpful it was to have hospice staff as an unbroken presence as death neared because they are so capable of understanding and explaining the process in a compassionate way.
Hospice care is normally covered by Medicare and is also often covered by Medicaid and private insurance. Coverage includes psychological and spiritual care in addition to nursing and medical services. If cost is a concern, studies have shown that hospice care is not usually any more expensive than standard medical care during the last months of life; in fact, it is often less expensive due to its focus on comfort rather than complicated medical procedures.
If a patient lives longer than six months under hospice care, the doctor's order can be renewed by a physician as long as the person continues to meet the criteria for hospice care. Hospice care won't be discontinued as long as there is still a need and a method to pay for it.