Hospice is a philosophy of care that recognizes death as the final stage of life and is to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to manage other symptoms so that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones.
Hospice care can play a vital role when a loved one’s illness no longer responds to life-prolonging treatment, such as chemotherapy or dialysis. Continuing treatment may prolong a patient’s life; however , it can also increase suffering and discomfort. It can be useful for a caregiver to be aware of a patient’s medical needs and options during this stage of the patient’s illness.
The goal of hospice care is to keep the patient as comfortable as possible while offering the best palliative care. Palliative care focuses on the comprehensive management of the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients with all types of progressive, incurable illnesses and their families. From coordinating a patient’s treatment to providing caregivers with respite resources, hospice touches all parts of a patient’s life. Hospice can assist a family in coping with their impending loss and will continue to support them through their grief after the death of their loved one.
The challenge begins when a seriously ill patient and their families realize that the patient is no longer getting better nor benefiting from treatment that they may be receiving. When that decision has been made, and everyone absolutely agrees on this decision, including the doctor, this is the time when hospice care may be considered. Hospice offers 24-hour access to a health care professional over the phone. It can be offered at the home, in a skilled nursing facility, or at an inpatient hospice unit.
Hospice services are provided by Medicaid, Medicare, and many other private insurers. If you are unsure if your loved one qualifies for hospice, you can speak to his/hers health care professional. In order for you to determine if the patient’s insurance covers hospice services, you can also call the insurance company directly. And by some chance that you find out that your insurance does not cover hospice, you can ask the hospice staff about other potential sources of financial assistance that your state can offer.
The decision to begin hospice care may be hard, both in the person who is dying and in family members of the patient. Many support groups are available online and meetings to help you through this end of life process.