Hospice is designed for individuals facing a life-limiting illness or injury. Its focus relies on the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our loved ones will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.
The team-oriented approach of Hospice and Palliative Care includes expert medical care, pain management, emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the person’s needs and wishes. Support is provided to the person’s loved ones as well up 13 months after their passing.
Several other points to keep in mind about Hospice include the following:
- Hospice focuses on caring, not curing.
- In most cases care is provided in the person’s home, but it 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, and many private insurance and managed care plans.
Hospice Nurses provide palliative care to reduce pain, help patient’s feel more at ease, and guide the patient and family through physiological changes that often take place. Additionally, Hospice Nurses may provide skilled interventions for medical conditions that are not directly related to the qualifying hospice diagnosis, and serve as an important liaison to the Hospice Medical Director.
Hospice Medical Directors are specialized physicians who oversee a comprehensive care plan for those who have elected hospice as a service, and ensure that patient, care team and family members are supported and that care goals are appropriately being addressed. For many patients, the Hospice Director will act as their attending physician while they are on hospice services.
Hospice Chaplains provide emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families; serve as a support to the hospice team; and help their co-workers to understand the culture, beliefs and needs of the patient and family. Chaplains are committed to understanding and honoring others’ beliefs, and help them to find purpose, meaning and comfort within their own context. Chaplains may also be part of the grief and bereavement services available to a deceased patient’s loved ones up to 13 months after their passing.
Hospice Social Workers play a critical role in helping patients and families to cope with the dying process. They work closely with other members of the hospice team to improve the patient’s emotional/physical comfort, to assess needs and access other available resources, and to make sure that nobody feels alone or neglected through the process. Like the Chaplain, the Social Worker is often an important part of the grief and bereavement team.
Hospice Aides or CNA’s provide valuable assistance with components of a patient’s care that do not require the skills of a Nurse or Therapist. Responsibilities may include helping a patient to bathe, dress and groom; performing light housework; preparing/serving light meals; monitoring/alerting the Nurse of patient condition; and providing companionship services.
Hospice volunteers play a key role in the administrative and/or direct patient care services of an agency. Per regulation, volunteers must provide services that are equal to at least 5% of the hospice agency’s patient care hours of paid staff. However, they are there 100% of their own volition, because they have a passion for the work and a love for the people they serve. Among the greatest services provided by volunteers is the companionship and respite that they can provide when a patient’s family is not available or needs a little personal time.
Where to Start
Anyone can initiate a referral for hospice services, including the prospective patient or their family. Once a hospice agency is contacted, the agency will arrange for a team member to provide a free consultation.
If the person elects to initiate hospice, a Registered Nurse will perform an assessment and the patient or their legal representative will be asked to review and sign paperwork indicating that they understand the services, their rights, and what impact hospice could have on other care. Additionally, the Hospice Medical Director and the patient’s attending physician must certify that the patient has a qualifying medical diagnosis and prognosis for hospice.