Being referred to hospice is being referred to a team of healthcare professionals who are experienced, trained, and passionate about helping patients and their loved ones cope during a transitional time. The hospice team works closely with the patient’s attending physician to individualize the patient’s plan of care and stays in close contact with the physician throughout the patient’s care. The primary focus of hospice care at end of life is ensuring symptoms such as pain, insomnia, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, agitation, nausea, and emotional/spiritual anguish are managed. By accomplishing this, hospice care enhances one’s quality of life to the greatest extent possible. Hospice aims to make patients as symptom free, alert, and as active as possible for as long as possible.
One benefit of hospice care is it utilizes a multi-discipline approach. Hospice does not focus only on the patient; it views the patient and family/caregivers as a unit. Because hospice believes that a patient is more than their medical diagnosis, it provides support that addresses the pt/caregiver’s fears, worries, end of life planning, emotional, and spiritual concerns. Visits are offered by not only a nurse, but an aide for personal care, a chaplain, and a licensed social worker.
Hospice is cost-effective for the patient and family in many ways. Hospice professionals continually assess the need for equipment and supplies that will promote comfort for the patient. The hospice benefit provides medical equipment related to the hospice diagnosis, such as oxygen, hospital beds, bedside commodes, wheelchairs, over-the-bed tables, and walkers. Other supplies provided by hospice include incontinence, catheter, mouth care, skin care lotions, dressings, and wound care supplies.
Also provided by the hospice benefit is payment for prescribed medications that is related to the primary hospice diagnosis and symptom management. For example, pain medication, medications for anxiety, constipation or diarrhea, and shortness of breath.
Early in diagnosing a terminal illness, patients should talk to their physicians about the expected prognosis of their specific disease. In discussing the prognosis, the physician may suggest that hospice be considered a healthcare choice as the disease advances. By offering hospice, a physician is acknowledging there may come a time when it is more feasible to re-direct the focus of care. The family and the patient benefit most from a hospice program when the team has weeks or months rather than only days to assess and provide the desired services the patient and family need. Unfortunately, when enrolling in hospice for only the last week or last days, the hospice team does not have ample time to establish the desired relationship with patients and their loved ones.
Medicare has disease-specific guidelines known as LCDs that list vital conditions that must be present when determining that a patient has declined to the level approved by Medicare for hospice admission.
I am always available to speak to you or your family about hospice healthcare’s admitting criteria and benefits.
“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” ~William Penn
Vickie C. Wacaster, Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice) Patient and Hospice Advocate