Hospice care is a type of care and philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation (alleviation) of a chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill person’s pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs.
In Western society, the concept of hospice has been evolving in Europe since the 11th century. Then, and for centuries thereafter, hospices were places of hospitality for the sick, wounded, or dying, as well as those for travelers and pilgrims. The modern concept of hospice here in the US includes comfort care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather spend their last months and days of life in their own homes.
Hospice is a philosophy, not a place
Hospice is a philosophy, not a place, which provides compassionate comfort care at the end of life. The goal is to maintain or improve quality of life for someone whose illness, disease or condition is not going to be cured, and from which there is no anticipated recovery. Each patient’s individualized care plan is designed to address the physical, emotional and spiritual pain that often accompanies terminal illness. Hospice care also offers practical support for the family during the illness and grief support after a death. For those who have an appropriate medical referral, the cost of hospice care is usually covered by Medicare, Medicaid or a third party insurance.
Many people mistakenly wait for their doctor to refer them to hospice. The national average of days on hospice prior to death is 4. This is because of a reluctance by medical providers to refer their patients earlier to hospice care. If you or a loved one are struggling with a serious illness and wish to stay home, ASK your doctor for a hospice referral sooner rather than later. Most patients and family think you must be very close to death to go on hospice but patients actually do much better on hospice. Often at home surrounded by familiar things patients report their pain more controlled and have less stress.
It is ideal to take advantage of this important service weeks and months prior to death.
What Happens if I am referred to Hospice?
Whether you are referred by a physician or call yourself, upon contact someone from the hospice will come out and explain their services to you. If you choose a hospice and sign up for care, they will immediately provide you with any medical equipment, medications, and support that you might need. A hospice nurse will visit you at home as often as you like; you can set the schedule. It might be once a week or twice a day: whatever your needs dictate. Other hospice team members will also visit you initially and then as needed for the rest of your care. This might include a social worker, medical director, spiritual care, and volunteers. You can accept what you wish and not take advantage of other services depending on your need and desire. They are there to serve you and your family.
You may opt out of hospice care at any time if you feel the hospice is not serving your needs, or you may choose another hospice organization.