Hospice Care - It's about living

 

A well-known saying reminds us that there are two unavoidable events in life—taxes and death. Although all humans face death and most of us fear it to some degree, there is a health care option that helps terminally ill patients recapture the spirit of living and make the most of the remaining time with family and friends; an option that not only allows the patient to guide his or her final days, but also provides assistance for the whole family by offering physical, emotional, and spiritual support. Hospice care is that option.
 
Hospice is a special way of caring for adults, children, and infants who are diagnosed with any type of life limiting illness when curative treatment options are no longer beneficial or desired. Hospice recognizes dying as a natural process and an inevitable part of life. It is intended to guide and assist the whole family during an illness and provide bereavement support after a loved one passes away. Nursing care and a variety of supportive services are tailored to the unique needs of each individual while encouraging patients and their families to live life as fully and comfortably as possible.
 
Hospice care is provided in the patient’s own home or place of residence and is based on a team approach to caring for the patient and family. The hospice team includes the patient’s physician, nurses, home health aides, medical social workers, pharmacists, chaplains and caring hospice volunteers. Home visits by the members of the hospice team are made on a scheduled and as-needed basis. Hospice nurses are available twenty-four hours a day by phone and can make a home visit at any time of the day or night should a need arise.
 
People often mistakenly believe that hospice is not appropriate until the last days of a
person’s life. In reality, hospice can provide care many months earlier to improve quality of life. 
 
Receiving hospice early, rather than in the last few days or weeks, means a patient enjoys a
longer period of stable, controlled symptoms and focuses on other parts of life, while the
caregiver receives support and guidance. If a person is eligible for hospice, there is no reason
to wait to start care.  

 

Eligibility

 

 

In its most simple form, eligibility for Hospice Care includes the following:
  • A person has been diagnosed with an illness or condition that has a life expectancy of six months or less, assuming the illness runs its normal course. There is no limit on the number of days a patient can receive hospice. As long as the primary physician and hospice medical director say the patient is eligible, the patient can receive services.
  • The diagnosis is certified by their personal physician and the hospice medical director.
  • The patient agrees to focus medical care on comfort and quality of life and elects for hospice care.

Common Hospice Diagnoses

 

Hospice provides care to anyone with a chronic illness or condition who meets the basic admission criteria. The diagnosis is not just for cancer, but includes such illnesses as:
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • End stage renal or pulmonary disease
  • Stroke

Costs

 

Hospice services are provided without any out-of-pocket cost to the patient. Hospice care is covered 100% by Medicare and Medi-Cal and as of January 2002 all California health insurance plans have been required to offer hospice coverage. In addition to the care that the hospice team provides, all medications and home medical equipment (hospital beds, oxygen, wheelchairs, etc.) that are needed to keep the patient comfortable and that is related to the patient’s hospice diagnoses are provided without cost to the family.