What is Hospice Care?
Hospice is a very much misunderstood way of delivering supportive care to patients who are gravely ill. It involves a team of providers taking care of a patient who has an incurable disease and is expected to live no more than six more months. A hospice team will usually include a nurse, a home health aide, a supervising physician, a counselor or chaplain, a social worker, and a primary caregiver who is usually a close family member.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Hospice is a philosophy of care. The hospice philosophy or viewpoint accepts death as the final stage of life. The goal of hospice is to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life and to manage other symptoms so that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones.” [link http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_2_5X_What_Is_Hospice_Care.asp?sitearea=ETO]
Hospice care can be received at home, in the hospital, or in a nursing home. The level of care depends on what the patient needs to be kept comfortable. The care is both physical and emotional.
The primary caregiver will be trained to give their family member the care he or she needs, and the other team members will help in their various ways. Hospice can even give the caregiver a break if needed by providing “respite care.”
There are commercial, non-profit, and even all-volunteer hospice providers. Most are paid by Medicare, Medicaid, or health insurance.
Patients are sometimes reluctant to enter hospice care because they think if means they have to die during a certain period. Even if you know your disease is incurable, thinking of hospice may difficult because it seems so final. Physicians also can feel this way.
However, that is not what hospice care really means. Hospice care is available to make the patient the most comfortable possible, and also to help the family.
Most patients and families who use hospice care say they are sorry they waited so long, because the service was so helpful.
Many patients receiving hospice care continue longer than six months. If they still have an incurable illness and the situation has not improved, hospice care can continue. Should a patient’s disease improve, he or she can leave hospice care and go back to regular medical care.