Donna Rogers, Marketing Director for Auburn Crest Hospice, has come to think of hospice care as “the ultimate gift when planning the ‘road map’ through the journey of life.” She feels hospice is a profession that brings comfort, answers, resources and support to both patient and families at a time when they need it most.
As someone who educates the community and medical field about hospice, I continue to be amazed at the amount of people, including health care employee’s, who do not understand what it is or what it does for others. I have found that many doctors aren’t comfortable talking to their patients about hospice as they feel that talking about the possibility of death is failure on their part. In reality, not talking about services available to families when they are in crisis is the ultimate failure.
Here are a few interesting statistics about hospice that makes me realize how important it is to continue educating others about this amazing service:
- Nearly 80% of Americans do not think of hospice as a choice for end-of life care.
- 90% do not know that Medicare pays for hospice.
- Approximately 75% do not know that hospice care can be provided at home (or the facility they call home).
- Fewer than 10% know that hospice provides pain relief for the terminally ill.
- 25% of Americans say they are not likely to talk about impending death with terminally ill patients.
- Fewer than 25% have put in writing how they want to be cared for at the end of life.
- 20% admit they have not thought about how they want to be cared for at the end of life, while15% say they have thought about their end-of-life care, but have not made their preferences known.
What is Hospice Care?
Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments. The focus of hospice is on enhancing the patient’s quality of life, preserving the patient’s dignity and dealing with the patient’s end of life issues while providing emotional support for the patient’s caregiver and family. Certain medications and medical equipment are covered by hospice so it is often a financial relief as well. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans.
Hospice IS NOT about giving-up hope.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hospice Care…
How is Hospice different from other medical care?
The hospice team is focused on the patient’s and family’s needs. Hospice recognizes that a serious illness affects the entire family as well as the person who is ill. Hospice addresses physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Sometimes other family members actually need more attention than the patient.
When is the right time to ask about hospice care?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and to ask the questions about what you can expect. If you don’t have a plan in mind for your end-of-life care, in the event of an emergency other people might end up making them for you and it may not be what you would have desired.
When should Patients and families consider Hospice Care?
After a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, or adult failure to thrive, patients and their families should consider their choices for care. A patient does not have to be bed bound or critically ill to be admitted to hospice for care
Does Accepting Hospice Care mean giving up?
Hospice is acknowledging that most diseases in their advanced form cannot be cured. It does not mean giving up hope. Hope is found in helping the patient and family achieve the highest possible level of physical comfort and peace of mind. While hope means different things to different people, we will be by your side on the journey to live out what hope means to you and your loved ones.
What if my condition improves?
Occasionally, this does happen due to peace of mind of the patient, the course of the disease process and the quality of care. Later if the patient declines and needs hospice again, the patient may re-elect hospice benefits. There is no penalty for getting better. Many times I have jokingly told patients and their families that nothing makes a hospice company happier than being “fired” because our patient has gotten better and no longer needs us.
In conclusion, thinking about death can be frightening, no matter our age or medical condition. As we get older, the reality of our own mortality tends to come into clearer focus, but it doesn’t make talking about it any less frightening. An individual’s personal wishes, beliefs and values are among the most important factors when making decisions about end of life care. Such wishes and preferences can be known only if they are discussed openly. We refer to this as advance care planning and it is a good thing for seniors, their families and health care professionals.
An excellent resource for more information about hospice is: www.nhpco.org (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization). Also, if you’re wanting to get affairs in order for the latter years, read this article about Leaving a Legacy.