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Hospice Care: What Families
and Patients Need to Know
If your loved one is in the end stages of a terminal illness, it may be time for hospice care. The move to hospice care isn’t an easy decision to make, but it’s the right choice when a patient is nearing the end of their life. If you’re considering hospice for a loved one and want to know more, this information from National Recruiters is for you.
What is hospice?
As The American Cancer Society explains, “hospice treats the person rather than the disease.” Rather than focusing on treatment, hospice care seeks to provide patients comfort and dignity in their final months of life.
Hospice care begins after a patient has stopped active treatment. While a hospice patient may leave hospice and return to treatment any time, usually hospice is used after treatment options have been exhausted.
Hospice care aims to control a patient’s pain and symptoms so they are as pain-free as possible while maintaining the alertness needed to enjoy the company of friends and family and receive spiritual support.
Where is hospice provided?
The focus of hospice care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible, wherever they are. As such, hospice care is provided in whatever location best suits your loved one’s needs and preferences, whether that’s at home, in a nursing facility or hospital, or an inpatient hospice center.
Who provides hospice care?
A team of professionals provides hospice care. Hospice professionals aren’t only nurses and doctors but also social workers, counselors, and spiritual leaders. Get to know your loved one’s hospice care team; they’re a valuable resource both for your loved one and your family.
These are some of the professionals who may be part of your loved one’s hospice care team:
Physicians: Physicians work closely with the hospice care team to manage your loved one’s symptoms.
Nurses and nursing assistants: Nurses manage the medical side of your loved one’s care, like administering medications. Nursing assistants and caregivers assist with non-medical caregiving, such as bathing.
Social workers: Hospice social workers are a valuable resource for the logistical aspects of dying, like completing advance directives and assisting with making decisions about funeral arrangements.
Counselors: Bereavement counselors provide grief support and resources to both patients and families.
Chaplains: Many hospice centers have a non-denominational chaplain who can provide spiritual support and guidance for patients near the end of life.
Who pays for hospice?
Most health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, pays for hospice care with little or no out-of-pocket cost for the family.
How can families help a loved one in hospice?
When someone you love is in hospice care, the best thing you can do is be there. Even if your loved one is in and out of sleep and unable to interact much, they recognize and appreciate your presence. Listen to your loved one when they want to talk and follow their lead when talking about death. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to fill silence with small talk. Just being present is enough.
If the decision is made to stay at home during hospice, create a healthy, welcoming living space. The situation is stressful enough, so be on the lookout for areas that may be causing stress and anxiety. Taking simple steps like decluttering, cleaning and organizing goes a long way toward making the home as positive an environment as possible. Also bring in a little Mother Nature with houseplants and nature art and photos.
If you’re not an immediate family member, you can also help by supporting your loved one’s closest relatives. Caring for a terminally ill loved one is demanding, but little things like delivering a home-cooked meal or doing chores relieve some of the burden.
When should you start making final arrangements?
If you haven’t touched on the subject of final arrangements yet, now is a good time to be thinking about it. Getting the logistics squared away now will save you the burden of making such plans upon your loved one’s death. If possible, ask your loved one if they have life insurance, which can significantly help you when managing funeral costs. If your loved one doesn’t know whether they’re a policyholder, you can search for the paperwork in their home or look it up online.
Hospice care is a blessing at the end of life. Unfortunately, many families don’t pursue hospice soon enough because they’re worried hospice means giving up. However, hospice isn’t about defeat — it’s about making the most of the remainder of your time. If it’s time for your loved one to enter hospice care, reach out to learn more about how hospice can help your family.
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