Certain topics such as death and hospice can be uncomfortable to talk about. The fact is that death is a natural part of life and hospice is a service that can provide support and comfort to people who have been given time to prepare for death and their families. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths circulating about hospice that cause some people to be hesitant to even ask questions about it. A better understanding of what hospice is, and what it is not, can help alleviate the sense of dread that often is felt when this word is mentioned.
What is hospice?
Many people think that hospice is a place, and though there are facilities that you can go that provide hospice services, that is not what hospice is. Hospice means a philosophy of care. Hospice will provide care to a client at their home, whether that is a private home, personal care home, nursing home, etc.
Workers include nurses, nurses’ assistants, social workers, and chaplains. They provide care depending on the individual’s needs; visits can be daily to once or twice a week and usually last no more than a couple hours. They work to find the correct combination of medications in the lowest possible doses. The goal is to control an individual’s symptoms without undesirable side effects. While hospice tries to care for the patient in their home, if a short hospitalization is needed to keep them comfortable that is possible, as the treatments will be to provide comfort as well.
Hospice does not mean that a person is “giving up” or that death is imminent. Hospice is designed to maximize the quality of life. It is designed for someone who has six months or less to live and the care goals are changed from trying to find a cure to trying to find comfort and acceptance. Hospice is not only for cancer patients, in fact; more than 60 percent of hospice clients have a diagnosis other than cancer.
How expensive is hospice? That depends on the insurance plan. Medicare and Medicaid plans cover the full benefits of hospice 100 percent. For an individual with private insurance a hospice staff member will help you review your plan and determine how much your out-of-pocket costs will be.
The more you know about hospice the easier the process can be. A physician’s order is required for hospice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start asking the questions. The hospice staff is also available to speak with you about the process and provide as much information as possible.
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