What is Hospice?
Hospice is a special approach to caring for people who are dying. Hospice focuses on comfort, support and dignity during the last phase of life. It includes care and support of the family during the patient’s illness and into the time of bereavement.
Hospice is not a particular place, but a way of caring for patients that encourages their fullest participation in life until death occurs.
Hospice care is provided by physicians, nurses, social workers, therapist, pastoral caregivers and volunteers, working together as a team. They extend physical, emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families. Patients and their families use the combination of this comprehensive support and care system to meet their individual needs.
Hospice care is frequently provided in the patient’s home, where team members assist family and friends in the care of the patient. Hospice care is also available in hospitals and nursing homes. The goal of hospice is to support the patient, family, and friends so that life, even towards its end, may be truly lived!
When Do I Need Hospice?
Hospice care can begin when curative treatment is no longer expected to be effective. All hospice programs in Kansas have admission guidelines. Ask your hospice to share these with you. Generally, most hospices expect that:
- The patient has a medical diagnosis of an “end-stage disease”. This means the attending physician has determined, with the patient/family, that nothing more is planned to cure the patient’s disease.
- The patient has a life expectancy that is measured in months.
- The patient/family is ready for comfort care and ready to ease aggressive treatment aimed toward cure.
- There will need to be a primary care person who is available to take care of the patient. The primary care person is an individual-family member, friend, or hired companion-who accepts 24-hour responsibility for the patient. This is especially important as the patient begins to require more care and supervision.
- The patient has an attending physician who is willing to certify the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis and who is willing to work with the hospice team.
- The patient lives within the geographic location served by the local hospice program.
What Services Does Hospice Provide?
Hospice patients typically use some combination of the following comprehensive support system provided by the hospice team. All members work closely with the patient’s personal physician.
Nurses: Provide coordination of all care provided to the patient. Are experts in the areas of pain control, symptom management, emotional counseling, teaching and support. Arrange for and supervise additional help. Assist with obtaining appropriate supplies and equipment. Provide nursing care.
Social Workers: Provide emotional and psychological support for patients and families as needed. Enable patients and families to address needs and desires. Explain insurance coverage, explore financial assistance and assist with the use of community resources.
Medical Director: Serves as consultant to the team as well as to the patient’s personal physician.
Pastoral Caregivers: Available to the patient and family as desired. Contact and/or work with the patient’s/family’s clergy as needed.
Volunteers: Are good listeners. Provide companionship. Do shopping and errands. Provide relief for the primary care giver(s).
Home Health Aides: Provide personal care to the patients.
Therapist: Occupational, Speech and physical therapies are available to all as needed.
24 Hour-On-Call: A team member is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions, discuss concerns and visit when needed.
Bereavement Follow-up: Families and friends can receive bereavement services through the hospice program months after the death of the patient. This assures the family of support through the major holidays and anniversaries during the following year.
What is the Role of My Personal Physician?
Your personal physician continues, as your primary doctor. The hospice team works with your doctor to provide the medical and supportive services you need. Communication between the hospice team and your doctor is maintained on a regular basis.
Will My Insurance Cover Hospice Care?
Many private insurance companies are now including hospice care as a benefit. It is important for you to call your claims agent for specifics about your policy.
You might want to ask your claims agent to send you a copy of any materials which outline your benefits. Sometimes explaining your situation to the claims agent is helpful.
A hospice team member will help you understand your insurance coverage.
What are Medicare Hospice Benefits?
Medicare covers hospice care. The benefits of this government provision are available from the Association of Kansas HospicesKansas Hospice and Palliative Care Organization or your local hospice program.
Eligibility – Individual must:
- Be entitled to Part A Medicare.
- Be certified as terminally ill by their attending physician.
- Elect the hospice benefit with a full understanding of hospice care.
Covered Routine Services:
- Nursing care
- Medical social services
- Home health aide services
- Medications and supplies
- Medical equipment
- Bereavement care for loved ones
Other Service (if determined appropriate):
Continuous Care – nursing care, during a period of crisis, provided on a 24-hour basis to maintain the patient at home.
Respite Care – Short-term limited care in order to relieve family members or other caregivers.
Short-Term Inpatient Care – for pain control & symptom management.
Therapies – occupational and speech. Consulting physician services.
Can I Change My Mind About Hospice?
Yes, Hospice is a flexible, patient-centered service. Hospice professionals recognize that a hospice program is not for everyone and that people have a right to change their minds. Patients and families can choose to participate in a hospice program or not to continue at any time during the course of the terminal illness.
Should a patient/family already in a hospice program decide that they no longer wish hospice services, they should seek the support and assistance of members of the hospice team in working out necessary medical and insurance changes.