Hospice is the model of compassionate and expert care for patients and families during the final season of life. According to a study, patients who chose hospice care have a mean survival rate of 29 days longer on average than non-hospice patients. This longer survival rate may be due to the comprehensive nature of care and services provided by the hospice team.
Suzi K. Johnson, vice president of Sharp HospiceCare, answers six common questions about the hospice experience.
- What does hospice mean?
The early definition of hospice was “a rest place for travelers.” Today, hospice is defined as a philosophy of caring for patients and families facing a difficult journey. I think that hospice is also about living in the spirit and purpose of providing comfort, symptom management and care to help patients and families gather the courage to face the remaining days of their journey together.
- When is the right time for hospice?
It’s time for hospice when you and your doctor have discussed the natural progression of your disease, including prognosis and the risk versus benefit of continuing certain treatments. You, your loved one(s) and doctor should be talking about care and treatment options well in advance of needing hospice services. Being fully informed helps you think about receiving the right care at the right time and in the right place based on personal preferences and values.
- Where does a patient receive hospice care?
Hospice is provided mostly in a person’s own home or the place they call home, such as a skilled nursing facility or an assisted living home. Sharp HospiceCare also has three hospice residences when care needs require 24/7 registered nursing care.
- Who provides hospice care?
The hospice team includes registered nurses, social workers, hospice aides, spiritual care providers, physicians and volunteers. This kind of interdisciplinary approach focuses on developing and implementing a plan tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes as it relates to their physical, emotional and spiritual concerns. Care is coordinated with the patient’s primary care physician and the hospice medical director. Volunteers provide companionship and caregiver support and relief.
- What services are provided to the patient and family?
The Hospice Interdisciplinary Team provides state-of-the-art, evidence-based care such as managing pain and symptoms; assisting the patient and family with the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying; providing needed drugs, medical supplies and equipment; instructing the family on how to care for the patient; delivering special services like speech and physical therapy, when needed; making short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to treat at home or the caregiver needs respite; and providing bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.
- Is hospice covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid?
Financial concerns can be a major burden for many patients and families facing a terminal illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans. Also, patients receive hospice care regardless of their ability to pay.