Understanding Hospice Care
Common Questions

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What is Hospice Care?

Hospice is the belief that each of us has a right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so. This is achieved through a team approach by providing the patient with medical care and pain management and the patient and family with emotional and spiritual support as the needed. Hospice focuses on caring, not curing. This is called palliative care.

Who provides hospice care?

Hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team of professionals including doctors, nurses, therapists, certified home health aides, social workers, clergy and volunteers working together to provide a full range of services. This team, along with the patient’s physician, works with the patient and family to develop an individual plan of care to manage the patient’s symptoms and meet the goals of the patient and family.

What is specifically provided by hospice?

An interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, certified home health aides, clergy, therapists, and volunteers comprise the staff available to assist the patient in their needs. Each will provide care according to their area of expertise. In addition, hospice will help provide medications, supplies, equipment, and hospital services that are related to the life-limiting illness. The hospice can assist the patient and/or family in locating community resources for additional care and items not covered by hospice.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illness. Palliative care provides relief from pain and other symptoms, affirms life and regards dying as a normal process, does not hasten or postpone death, integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of care, offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death, offers support to the family to help cope during this difficult time, will enhance the quality of life, and may also improve the course of the illness.

Palliative care differs from curative care in that it is not intended to cure the disease. As a result, routine IV’s, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery would only be appropriate if the physician and the hospice staff determine these procedures in some way enhance the patient’s quality of life.

Who can be admitted to hospice?

A patient may be admitted to hospice when their physician certifies that if the disease process runs its normal course, the patient has a life expectancy of six (6) months or less.

When should hospice be started?

Any time during a patient’s illness is an appropriate time to discuss all options available, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Making the decision to move from curing to comfort can be a difficult decision for the patient and family. Caring and sensitive hospice staff members are available to discuss all concerns with everyone. They will work with the patient, family and physician to help make the best decision for all involved.

Should I wait for our physician to suggest hospice?

Anyone can make the call to hospice for services, including the patient, family, clergy, friends or healthcare provider. The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professionals, clergy or friends. If the patient’s physician has not made a referral to hospice, the hospice staff will call the physician to get permission to admit the patient for them.

Is hospice care only for patients with cancer?

No. Hospice care is appropriate for anyone facing the advancing stages of any life-threatening illness; including but not limited to cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), end-stage heart, liver, kidney, lung disease, and severe birth defects.

Can someone who lives alone receive hospice care?

Yes, as long as the patient is safe. Hospice staff will work with the patient to establish a plan of action when it is determined it is no longer safe for the patient to live alone.

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