• Dawn

Hospice Questions Answered - Part One

What is hospice? When should I consider hospice? How does one choose hospice? What does hospice do? How will I pay for hospice? Fears about hospice?

These are just a few of the things that come up when it comes to hearing the word “hospice”.

I will attempt to break things down into chapters and post them separately so as not to confuse people. The last thing one needs when in crisis mode is too much information all at once.

What is hospice?

Wikipedia describes hospice as “… a type of health care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient's pain and symptoms and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life. Hospice care prioritizes comfort and quality of life by reducing pain and suffering.”

The goal of hospice is to allow terminally ill patients the opportunity to spend whatever time they have left in the comfort of their own home and have some quality of life if it is possible. They do this through a myriad of programs from nursing care to volunteers who can assist the family and patients to spiritual care personnel. (*Note: In some states, a hospice facility may be available which allows more frequent care for patients while allowing family and friends to visit.)

Who is eligible for hospice?

Any person who has been determined to have a terminal disease and is not currently seeking active curing treatment (such as radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, etc.) and, in the best guess of their physician has six months or less to live.

I need to add a couple of caveats here as the above statement may put off people who really should consider hospice.

1. No one knows when someone will pass and therefore the six months is somewhat fluid.

Patients will be re-evaluated close to the six month period of time. If it is determined they are still progressing in their disease and need further assistance, they will be granted additional time with hospice. Some patients may be on hospice for one to two years.

2. If patients need to go to the hospital or decide to try new curative treatments, they can be released from hospice. They may return once home from the hospital or if they stop treatments.

Who pays for hospice?

For those patients who are on Medicare, hospice is covered at 100%. For those with private insurance, there is likely a provision for hospice within their plan.

How to choose an agency

During “our” cancer journey which began in 2014, we heard about hospice from Cancer CAREPoint, an organization in our area which helps people deal with their cancer diagnoses. During several of my caregiver support group meetings, we had a representative from a local agency come in to talk to us about what hospice was and what they offered.

It was recommended to us both by Cancer CAREPoint and the palliative care team at the doctor’s office to interview agencies ahead of needing their services. George and I chose three agencies. Each agency sent a representative to the house to talk about their services and left information behind for us.

I should note that by federal law all hospice agencies have a minimum standard of care. They all offer pretty much the same services, but some may approach it differently or have additional services. This is why it is important to meet with them.

After George and I were done interviewing, I had a favorite one, but his was different. In this case, it was important to go with the agency that he felt most comfortable with. With that decision made, we set that on the back burner until the time it would be needed.

To reiterate: Do your homework. Invite several agencies to come and do an interview. Be prepared to ask questions. None of them should pressure you into signing, they will usually leave behind a folder from their agency. Go with the one that makes you feel most comfortable and keep their folder/phone number handy.

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