Hospice is a difficult subject. In America, we don’t like to talk about death. Yet it happens to all of us and to our loved ones. What if there were a comprehensive, medically directed program that helped patients and families understand and deal with the pain and process of death?
Hospice is just such a program. Hospice is a family-oriented, team-directed program that brings comfort to patients with limited life expectancy by controlling pain and symptoms while maximizing quality of life in the time remaining. Hospice also focuses on helping families through the trauma of losing a loved one, both during the process and for up to a year afterwards.
Yet because hospice deals with an uncomfortable subject, there are many misunderstandings about what it is and isn’t. Hopefully the following facts will dispel the myths and allow more people to understand this valuable service.
- Hospice brings comfort to patients in the process of dying and to their grieving families by enhancing the quality of life left to live and by replacing helplessness and fear with peace. Hospice works with men and women of all ages, races, and religions. It respects the values and culture of families and their right to choice.
- Hospice is available to anyone with an illness that is expected to limit life to six months or less. That includes cancer, heart disease; neurological disorders, such as MS or ALS; Alzheimer’s and dementia; diabetes; emphysema; kidney disorders; stroke; and lung and liver disease.
- Hospice is not a place, it is a service that can be provided in the home, an assisted living facility, the nursing home, or the hospital. Interdisciplinary hospice team members include doctors, RNs, nurse’s aides, social workers, spiritual counselors, and bereavement counselors. The hospice team helps patients and their families on a physical, emotional, social, and spiritual level. Several companies provide hospice services.
- Hospice is not a volunteer organization; care is provided by highly trained medical professionals who specialize in end-of-life care, social workers who understand what patients and family needs are at such a time of crisis, and spiritual and bereavement staff who can talk about painful subjects in ways that promote understanding and acceptance instead of fear. Hospice also has volunteers who are available to offer companionship for patients and even to run errands for time-pressed family caregivers.
- Hospice is not a “death-bed” service in the last hours of a patient’s life; it is designed as a care plan for the last six months (frequently longer) of a patient’s life. Once a patient has been diagnosed as having a limited life expectancy, hospice can begin to alleviate physical pain and address the emotional and spiritual issues that face both patients and their families. In fact, the sooner hospice services are initiated, the more comfortable the patient will be and the better quality of life he or she will have in the remaining days.
- Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurances pay for all of hospice services. Unlike with home health, medications, supplies, and equipment, such as a hospital bed, are also one-hundred-percent covered.
- Hospice does not take control of patient care; instead, nurses and staff work with the patient’s physician to coordinate care and make recommendations, based upon their expertise, on how to alleviate pain and symptoms. The patient does not have to give up his or her family physician. Hospice also works with the patient and family to help them understand the changes that are happening and to choose the most meaningful way, consistent with their wishes and needs, to spend the remaining time.
- Hospice doesn’t replace family care; it enhances the involvement of the family. Often families have unresolved issues and strains. With their special training, hospice social workers and interdenominational spiritual counselors can help alleviate those issues and bring families closer together.
If you would like information about AseraCare Hospice in Pittsburgh, please call our office at 412.271.2273. If you are interested in joining our team of volunteers, please call Rebecca or Linda at 412.271.2273..