By DB Fuller

Consultant for Guardian Hospice

November is Hospice Awareness month! Let’s take a moment to learn some of the benefits of hospice that affect persons and families across America.

Each year thousands of people are diagnosed with terminal illness (life expectancy of 6 months or less) and die without utilizing one of life’s best kept secrets. To better understand hospice, let me share what hospice encompasses.

What is hospice care. Terminally ill patients, their families and friends are faced with a situation that is foreign, unfamiliar and often times terrifying. Hospice focuses on the quality of the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of the illness and effects rather than longevity.

The hospice team is comprised of doctor, social worker, spiritual and bereavement counselors, nurse, pharmacist, home caregiver and trained volunteers. Their job is to provide the following services that are critical during this period of life.

1. Routine Home Care. Routine home care is the basic level of hospice care provided in your home, assisted living, or nursing home. This level of care offers a team approach by hospice staff and your physician to provide comfort at the end of life. This hospice level of care includes medical social services, spiritual support, volunteer visits, bereavement counseling, medication, equipment, and all supplies related to your loved one’s hospice diagnosis.

2. Continuous Home Care.  Continuous home care is when a nurse stays in your home for an extended period of time, if the patient is experiencing a medical crisis and severe symptoms such as unrelieved pain 

3. General Inpatient Care. When severe pain and symptoms require a higher level of care general inpatient care may be needed with a short stay in an inpatient hospice or hospital facility. After this treatment your loved one can return home to their family and familiar surroundings, if possible, and resume routine 

4. Respite Care. Respite care is provided as an occasional benefit that allows the caregiver a short-term break from the challenges of assisting someone with a terminal illness. This service must be provided at a Medicare-certified inpatient hospice facility, hospital, or skilled nursing facility that can provide around-the–clock nursing care.

Common Misconceptions 

Myth: Hospice is only for the last few days of life.

Fact: The hospice benefit is designed to assist patients during the last six months of life. Most patients and their families, when surveyed, indicate they wish they’d elected the benefit earlier.

Myth: Hospice means the patient must give up hope.

Fact: The hospice team respects the patient’s wishes when developing the hospice plan of care. A sense of hope can continue throughout the patient’s care plan. By providing comfort to patients and their families, hospice care helps enable life to be lived to the fullest.

Myth: Hospice will “take over” and the patient will have no control.

Fact: Hospice respects all wishes, desires, cultures, backgrounds and religious beliefs. Both the patient and the family are integral to decisions regarding the plan of care.

Myth: The patient must have an Advance Directive to elect the hospice benefit.

Fact: A DNR or Advance Directive is not required for hospice admission.

Any questions call 615-771-8979