November is National Home Care and Hospice Month. One of the most important things a hospice can do is educate the community about hospice care.
What is hospice care?
Hospice care is considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a serious or life-limiting illness or injury. Hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient’s loved ones as well.
At the center of hospice care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.
Hospice focuses on caring, not curing, and in most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home. Hospice care can also be provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed care organizations.
How and when does hospice care start?
Anyone can inquire about hospice services. You or your loved one may call a local hospice and request services. The hospice staff will then contact your physician to determine if a referral to hospice is appropriate. Another way to inquire about hospice is to talk with your physician, and he or she can make a referral to hospice.
Usually, care is ready to begin within a day or two of a referral. However, in urgent situations, service may begin sooner. Hospice can begin as soon as the hospice nurse visits to make sure you meet hospice guidelines. The hospice nurse will also review the services the hospice will offer and sign the necessary consent forms for care to begin.
When is the right time to ask about hospice?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice care and ask questions about what to expect. Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for loved ones and family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice becomes apparent. By having these discussions in advance, uncomfortable situations can be avoided. Instead, educated decisions can be made that include the advice and input of loved ones.
How does hospice work?
In many cases, family members or loved ones are the patient’s primary caregivers. As a relationship with the hospice begins, hospice staff will want to know how best to support the person and family during this time.
Among its major responsibilities, the hospice team:
• manages the patient’s pain and symptoms;
• provides emotional support;
• provides needed medications, medical supplies and equipment;
• coaches loved ones on how to care for the patient;
• delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed;
• makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time; and
• provides grief support to surviving loved ones and friends. Support can include conversations with the person and family members, teaching caregiving skills, prayer, telephone calls to loved ones, including family members who live at a distance and companionship and help from volunteers.
Counseling or grief support for the patient and loved ones are an important part of hospice care. After the person’s death, bereavement support is offered to families for at least one year. These services can take a variety of forms, including telephone calls, visits, written materials about grieving and support groups. Individual counseling may be offered by the hospice or the hospice may make a referral to a community resource.
Ultimately, hospice is not about dying. It is about helping people live as well as they can, in their environment of choice, when life expectancy is limited. It’s about managing pain, easing the burden of caregivers and surrounding the patient’s family with care and support following the end of the patient’s life to help them through their healing journey.
The National Hospice and Palliative Organization’s Mission and Vision include:
Mission — To lead and mobilize social change for improved care at the end of life.
Vision — A world where individuals and families facing serious illness, death, and grief will experience the best that humankind can offer.
It’s about how you live.
Sheridan Memorial Hospital Hospice works to make this happen.
To inquire more about hospice services or if interested in becoming a hospice volunteer please call Sheridan Memorial Hospital Hospice at 307-672-1083.
Ann Aksamit, BSN, RN, CHPN, is Sheridan Memorial Hospital Home Care & Hospice manager.