What is hospice?

Hospice, or end-of-life care, emphasizes pain management and symptom control rather than curative treatment. It affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. It provides personalized services and a caring community so that patients and families can attain the necessary preparation for a death that is satisfactory to them. At the center of hospice is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Who can receive hospice care?

Hospice care is appropriate if your doctor and the hospice medical director certify that you have a life-limiting illness, and if the disease runs its normal course, death may be expected in six months or less. At times, a disease does not run its normal course and patients may be on hospice services for periods longer than six months. Hospice care provides comfort and support for patients with all types of illnesses including cancer, heart, lung, vascular, kidney and neuromuscular diseases, all types of dementia, and AIDS. If you feel that you or a loved one may benefit from hospice care, we are only a phone call away. A member of our experienced staff can work with you and your physician to determine if hospice care is right for you. If you prefer to be contacted via e-mail, please Contact Us and we will promptly reply to your request.

Who is involved in the hospice process?

The hospice team usually consists of the person receiving care, the patient’s family and loved ones, the patient’s personal physician, our medical director, nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, counselors and spiritual caregivers, trained volunteers, and other professionals such as speech, physical, and occupational therapists, as needed.

What are the different levels of hospice care?

Most hospice patients live at home or in a nursing home. Routine home hospice care covers the services, of the interdisciplinary hospice team, medications and equipment. Other categories of care are available when needed.

· Routine: Standard level of care given in the home, long term care facility or assisted living facility. Care includes visits from the hospice nurse, chaplain, social worker and home health aides as well as 24-hour on call nursing support.

· Inpatient Care: Sometimes pain or symptoms cannot be controlled at home, and the patient is taken to a hospital or other inpatient care center. When the symptoms are under control, the patient returns home. Insurance usually covers the cost of inpatient room and board.

· Respite Care: Many patients have their own caregivers, often family members. When caregivers need a rest from their care giving responsibilities, patients can stay in a nursing home or hospice residential care center for up to five days. Medicare covers the cost of room and board, as do many other insurance plans.

· Continuous Care: Sometimes a patient has a medical crisis that needs close medical attention. When this happens, we can arrange for inpatient care, or the hospice provider staff can provide round-the-clock care in the home. When the crisis is over, the patient returns to routine home care.

What if I choose hospice and then live more than six months?

Hospice care does not automatically end after six months. Medicare and most other insurers will continue to pay for hospice care as long as a physician certifies that the patient continues to have a limited life expectancy.

What if my condition improves?

Occasionally, the quality of care provided by hospice leads to substantially improved health, and life expectancy exceeds six months. When this happens, the hospice provider will transfer care to a non-hospice care provider. Later, when patients become eligible for hospice, they can re-elect the hospice benefit. There is no penalty for getting better!

How does hospice manage pain and other symptoms?

Hospice physicians and nurses are experts at pain and symptom control. They are continually developing new protocols for keeping patients comfortable and as alert and independent as possible. They know which medications to use simply and in combination to provide the best results for each patient.

Doesn’t pain control medications make people feel "doped up"?

When morphine and other pain control medications are administered properly for medical reasons, patients find much-needed relief without getting "high" or craving drugs. The result is that hospice patients remain more alert and active because they are not exhausted by uncontrolled symptoms.

What kind of emotional and spiritual support does hospice provide?

Hospice recognizes that people are more than a collection of symptoms. People nearing the end of their lives often face an enormous emotional and spiritual distress. They are dismayed as their physical abilities begin to fail. They don’t want to be a burden on their families. They worry how their loved ones will manage without them. Sometimes, they feel deep regret about things they have done or said – or things left undone and unsaid. Hospice professionals and volunteers are trained to be active listeners and to help patients and families work through some of these concerns so that they can find peace and emotional comfort in their final days.

Is hospice available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Hospice care is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We have nurse’s on-call and respond within minutes, if necessary. We also have support services on call as well such as social workers and chaplains.

Why are hospice volunteers needed and what do they do?

Hospice volunteers provide essential support to patients and their loved ones including running errands, preparing meals, assistance with home activities, emotional and spiritual support and companionship as each family deals with grief and bereavement. They have all been screened and trained to assure that each person is right for this type of volunteer work.