Frequently Asked Questions
What is hospice care?
One of the most common questions we receive is “what is hospice care?” There is often confusion regarding what hospice care is and what it is not.
Hospice is a philosophy of care. It treats the person rather than the disease and focuses on quality of life. It surrounds the patient and family with a team consisting of professionals who not only address physical distress, but emotional and spiritual issues as well. Hospice care is patient-centered because the needs of the patient and family drive the activities of the hospice team.
It is also important to make clear what hospice is not – hospice is not hastening death. Instead, at Wren Hospice, it is about celebrating what time the patient has left and making them as comfortable as possible.
Is hospice only for people who are dying?
Hospice is for people who have a limited life expectancy. (Actually, we all have a limited life expectancy, so it is more specific than that.) Hospice is for patients whose condition is such that a doctor would not be surprised if the patient died within the next six months. This doesn’t mean the patient is going to die in the next six months–it simply means that he or she has a condition that makes dying a realistic possibility.
Isn’t using hospice the same as “giving up”?
Not at all! This is one of the most common questions about hospice, but it is actually a misconception. Although your loved one’s condition may have reached a point that a cure is not likely—or not likely enough to be worth the side effects of treatment—that does not mean there is nothing left to do. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her last month’s focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. As one man put it, “I’d rather spend my time with my children and grandchildren than waste my limited time and energy driving to the treatment center and recovering beside the toilet bowl.” With the expert guidance of a registered nurse case manager, as well as the assistance of certified nurse’s aides, social workers, and chaplains, patients and families find they can focus on their relationships, healing old wounds and building wonderful memories together. Far from giving up, hospice helps families truly live well and support each other during a stressful, but, in the end, very natural family life passage.
Should we wait for the doctor to suggest hospice?
You can, but oddly enough, doctors often wait for families to bring it up. This is part of the reason that people often receive hospice care so late in the process. If you think your loved one and family might benefit from the support of weekly home visits from staff who specialize in pain control and the easing of distress, ask your doctor if hospice might be something to consider now, or in the near future. If, when you are truly honest with yourself, you realize that you would not be surprised if your loved one were to die in the next six to twelve months, ask the doctor if he or she would be surprised. If the answer is anything close to “No, I would not be surprised,” then maybe it’s a good time to begin a discussion about hospice. If you would like more information, please feel free to call us at (864)326-3242. We would be happy to talk with you or to do an informational home visit—no obligation or strings attached.
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, that they needed the help much sooner than they received it. 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. If you even 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. If you would like more information on when to start hospice, please call us at (864)326-3242. A hospice professional will respond to your inquiry within 24 hours.
What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
Hospice patients are cared for by a team consisting of a physician, nurse practitioner, a nurse, social workers, certified nursing assistants, 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.
Is hospice care covered by insurance?
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, 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.
If the patient is eligible for Medicare, will there be any additional expense to be paid?
The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the full scope of medical and support services for a life-limiting illness. Hospice care also supports the family and loved ones of the person through a variety of services. This benefit covers almost all aspects of hospice care with little expense to the patient or family.
Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?
Certainly. If the patient’s condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about their daily life. If the discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.
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. (Most hospices have 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.
Is there any special equipment or changes I must make in my home before hospice care begins?
Your hospice provider will assess your needs, recommend any equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain any necessary equipment. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient, clean and safe as possible.