When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made and who should make it?
At any time during a life-limiting illness, it’s appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice. By law the decision belongs to the patient. Most hospices accept patients who have a life-expectancy of six months or less and who are referred by their personal physician.
Is all hospice care the same?
No. Many communities have more than one hospice. Medicare requires certified hospices provide a basic level of care but the quantity and quality of all services can vary significantly from one hospice to another. To find the best hospice for your needs, ask your doctor, healthcare professionals, clergy, social workers or friends who have received care for a family member.
What does the hospice admission process involve?
One of the first things the hospice program will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for this patient at this time. (Arizona Care Hospice has medical staff available to help patients who have no physician.) The patient will be asked to sign consent and insurance forms. These are similar to the forms patients sign when they enter a hospital. The form Medicare patients sign also tells how electing the Medicare hospice benefit affects other Medicare coverage.
How many family members or friends does it take to care for a patient at home?
There’s no set number. One of the first things our hospice team will do is to prepare an individualized care plan that will, among other things, address the amount of caregiving needed by the patient. Hospice staff visit regularly and are always accessible to answer questions and provide support.
What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
Hospice patients are cared for by a team consisting of a physician, a nurse, social workers, counselors, hospice aides, clergy, therapists, and volunteers. Each one provides assistance based on his or her own area of expertise. In addition, hospices provide medications, supplies, equipment, and other services related to the terminal illness.
Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Hospice neither hastens nor postpones dying. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of child birth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
How does hospice “manage pain?”
Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it can address each. Hospice nurses and doctors are up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. In addition, they are sometimes joined by specialists schooled in music therapy, art therapy, massage and diet counseling.
Finally, various counselors, including clergy, are available to assist family members as well as patients.
Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to have the patient as pain free and alert as possible. By constantly consulting with the patient, hospices have been very successful in reaching this goal.
Is hospice covered by insurance?
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is covered by Medicare nationwide at 100%, by Medicaid in 47 states, and by most private insurance providers. To be sure of coverage, families should, of course, check with their employer or health insurance provider. Hospice can assist you with this as well.
If the patient is not covered by Medicare or any other health insurance, will hospice still provide care?
The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any coverage they may not be aware of.