Listed below are commonly asked questions and answers to Hospice and caring for people with a life-limiting diagnosis.
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What is hospice care?
Hospice is a philosophy of care. It treats the person rather than the disease and focuses on quality of life. The patient and family are surrounded by a team consisting of professionals who not only address physical distress but emotional and spiritual issues as well. Hospice specializes in easing pain, discomfort, and distress on all levels. The care provided by hospice is often helpful for conditions such as cancer, heart disease, COPD (emphysema), and advanced dementia. Hospice brings physical, emotional, and spiritual care and support to you or your loved one wherever you call home, whether that is your own home, a nursing center, an assisted living facility, or an independent living facility.
Who is hospice care for?
Hospice is for patients with very serious medical conditions that have reached a point where a cure is not likely, or not likely enough to risk the side effects of treatment. Usually, the condition is life-threatening and you or your loved one may have a life expectancy of 6 months or less. You or your loved one may be experiencing symptoms that make day-to-day living very uncomfortable—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Often patients turn to hospice because they are anxious or depressed, or they are feeling spiritually distressed because of their medical condition.
Hospice care places an emphasis on quality of life. This often allows you or your loved one to spend your remaining months focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. This doesn’t mean the patient is going to die in the next six months. With the expert guidance of a nurse and case manager, as well as the assistance of bath aides, social workers, and chaplains, patients and families find they can focus on their relationships, healing old wounds, and building wonderful memories together. Hospice helps families truly live well and support each other during a stressful, but, in the end, very natural family life passage.
When is the best time to start hospice care?
Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier. Research has shown that hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives. Families who receive hospice near the very end—just a few days to a week—have been shown to have a harder time adjusting during the bereavement period than do those whose loved one receives hospice care for weeks and months before passing on. Families feel that their doctor will suggest hospice care if it is appropriate, but often, doctors will wait for the family to bring it up. This is part of the reason people receive hospice care so late in the process.
If you think that your family and the person you care for could benefit from pain or symptom management, assistance with bathing and grooming, emotional and spiritual support, and telephone access to caregiving advice, ask your physician if hospice might be a service to consider. Experts agree that at least two to three months of care is optimal. It is better to ask sooner rather than later so you do not regret having missed the support that hospice has to offer.
Who pays for hospice?
If the patient has Medicare and meets hospice eligibility requirements, then the government will pay 100% of the cost. In such a case, there is no deductible and no copayment. Not only are the services of the hospice staff entirely covered, but medical supplies and prescriptions relating to pain and comfort management are also covered.
Individuals who do not have Medicare coverage but have coverage from private insurance should talk with their insurance company to find out about eligibility and what deductibles and copayments may apply. Medicaid provides coverage, but it varies by state.
Can you leave a hospice care program?
A person may sign out of the hospice program for a variety of reasons, such as resuming aggressive curative treatment or pursuing experimental measures. Or, if a patient shows signs of recovery and no longer meets the 6-month guideline, you or your loved one can be discharged from hospice care and return to the program at a later time.
Is hospice for housebound or bedridden people only?
Hospice is not only for those who are housebound or bedridden. Most patients are living their day-to-day lives. Care is given where the patient lives. That may be in their home, long-term care facilities, assisted living or retirement communities, rest homes, and hospitals.
Do hospice patients become addicted to pain killers?
GHC has the expertise to manage pain so that patients are comfortable yet alert and are able to enjoy each day to the fullest extent possible given their medical condition.
Is there a difference between profit vs nonprofit hospice?
There is no difference to the patient when it comes to the care that is provided or the cost of care whether the patient chooses to go with a profit or nonprofit hospice. Both types of hospices are paid by Medicare exactly the same, so they are both required to follow the conditions of participation. However, each hospice is unique in the specific services they provide outside of what is required. The main difference between the two is that a nonprofit hospice cannot show that they have made a profit at the end of the year. At GHC we are able to reinvest the money we earn into hiring and retaining staff members with more education, training, and experience.