Most people would rather avoid thinking about hospice, and there’s a lot of confusion about what it even is. Hospice is a program for people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness who have an expected life span of six months or less IF the disease runs its normal course.
Under hospice, all treatment to cure or control a terminal illness is stopped and is replaced with physical, emotional, and spiritual support for both the patient and their family members. Hospice is appropriate for, but not limited to, diagnoses of cancer; dementia; or an advanced lung, heart, kidney, or liver disease, among other conditions.
One common misconception about hospice is that it’s very grim and that it’s where you go to die. While hospice is a program for people nearing the end of their life, there’s a lot more to it.
Hospice Can Be In-Home or at a Facility
Hospice is mostly provided in patients’ homes through an agency, like CHP Home Care & Hospice. There are also inpatient hospice facilities, like the CHP Defiance Area Inpatient Hospice Center, which are homier and more comfortable than a hospital. Hospice may also be provided in a nursing facility.
A key difference between at-home and inpatient hospice is that at a facility, there is round-the-clock care, whereas, at home, family members are the primary caregivers for day-to-day tasks, such as preparing food or performing household chores. Visits by hospice team members are scheduled — and emergency visits at all hours, if needed — to take care of specific tasks, like pain management and wound care.
People of All Ages Can Be in Hospice Care
To qualify for hospice care, you need to meet the following conditions, according to Medicare.gov.
- You have a terminal illness with a prognosis of fewer than six months to live, as determined by your doctor.
- You accept hospice care over care to cure or control your terminal illness.
- You sign a statement that you’re choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness and related conditions.
Beyond that, people of any age can be in hospice. While the majority of hospice patients are older adults — a report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) found that in 2018, about 61 percent of Medicare hospice patients were 75 years of age or older — younger people can be in hospice, too. The NHPCO report also found that about 16 percent of hospice patients were younger than 65.
Consider Hospice Care Sooner Rather Than Later
Hospice is often brought up too late. Instead of facing the reality that end-of-life is approaching and planning for hospice, more lines of treatment are often attempted to prolong a patient’s life, even when they’re not working or it’s diminishing a person’s quality of life in the process.
As a result, hospice is offered as a last resort, when the person doesn’t have much time left to live and make use of the benefits of hospice, such as pain and symptom management, and getting more time to spend with loved ones rather than being shuttled in and out of medical appointments.
When life-prolonging treatments are no longer working for you or your loved one, talking to your doctor about and deciding to go into hospice sooner could make a significant, positive difference in the quality of the final months of life. If your doctor hasn’t brought it up, you can ask him or her for a hospice referral, or call CHP Hospice directly.
While a person needs to have fewer than six months to live to qualify for hospice, many people may be hesitant to start care and get the full benefit from it. One study shows that only 10 percent of patients are in hospice care for six months or more.
Use the Entire Hospice Care Team
In addition to hospice nurses, who administer wound care and handle symptom and pain management, a hospice team generally also includes the following people:
- Medical director and physician(s) Develop a hospice care plan and oversee pain and symptom management.
- Home health aide Helps the patient with personal hygiene like bathing and dressing, as well as tasks like changing bedding.
- Social worker Addresses psycho-social needs and can provide assistance and resources for nonmedical concerns, such as legal and financial issues, and end-of-life planning.
- Chaplain Provides spiritual and emotional support.
- Volunteers Don’t physically care for the patient but can help with other tasks like running errands.
CHP Hospice also offers other types of services, like music, massage therapy, and more.
Many people decline to use some of the nonmedical hospice services, like those provided by a chaplain or volunteers, but caregivers are often overburdened and would benefit from all the services hospice offers.
Communicate End-of-Life Wishes and Ask Questions
Hospice gives people an opportunity to intentionally plan the end of their life, and what their wishes are, and convey these desires to their hospice team and loved ones.
Don’t be afraid to ask your hospice team all your questions, no matter how scary — even questions like, “How long do I have to live?” and “What is dying going to be like?”
While hospice workers can’t know all the answers for sure, they can answer to some extent based on their past professional experiences. Even if they don’t have the answers, just talking about these daunting topics with a trained hospice care provider can be comforting and dispel some of the fear of the unknown that surrounds the end of life.
Choose a Local Hospice
Not all hospices are the same. Some are for-profit franchises based miles away, others are local non-profit organizations. It’s important to know that you have the right to choose your hospice provider. Using a local, nonprofit hospice like CHP Home Care & Hospice ensures that nurses are nearby and will respond quickly to your needs.
Some questions to consider when deciding on your hospice care team, recommended by Medicare.gov, are:
- Is this hospice care provider certified and licensed?
- Does this hospice care provider train their caregivers to perform at-home care?
- How will my doctor work with this hospice care provider?
- How many people does each member of the hospice staff care for?
- How regularly will the hospice staff meet with me and my family to discuss care?
- How does the hospice staff handle emergencies after hours?
- What measures are in place to make sure I’m getting quality care?
- Are hospice volunteers trained, and what types of services do they provide?
Please feel free to contact any CHP Home Care & Hospice location and speak with a caring nurse about your questions or concerns. We are happy to help you!