“Hospice” can be a scary word for patients and families, but in reality it is a wonderful service that offers so much in a time of need. One reason “hospice” can be scary is because people don’t truly understand what it is. Here are a few important things you should know about hospice:
1. Hospice helps you focus on your QUALITY of life
Hospice is a service, in your home or another setting that provides pain and symptom management, psychosocial and spiritual support, so that you are able to have your best day possible with a life-limiting illness. By supporting you in all of these ways and keeping you comfortable, hospice care allows you to focus on your quality of life.
2. Hospice supports the whole family
Hospice is not just for the patient enrolled in services. In fact, hospice supports the entire family. Hospice agencies are able to provide respite to tired caregivers as well as provide emotional support through social workers, clergy, and volunteers. A hospice doctor and nurse will be on call 24 hours a day to give you and your family support whenever you need it.
3. You can continue seeing your doctor
Enrolling in hospice services does not prevent you from continuing to visit with your doctor with whom you have formed a relationship. Your doctor can speak directly to the hospice agency or you can go check in with your doctor as you are able.
4. Your pharmacy comes to you
One of the great benefits of hospice is that it brings the pharmacy to you. This means no more running out to get medications, potentially to multiple pharmacies. Hospice can adjust your medications as needed, in real time. This reduces another burden on you and your family. Hospice agencies will also quickly deliver durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair or hospital bed.
5. There is no fixed timeframe
Once enrolled in hospice, a patient is approved for two 90-day periods. If they need to be re-certified after 6 months to continue services, that is completely fine. I have known patients who have been enrolled with a hospice provider for over a year. Alternatively, if a patient changes their mind and decides that they would like to pursue treatment or stop hospice services for any reason, it is also ok to do so.
6. Hospice provides benefits and support after death
Hospice is able to provide ongoing support to family and friends after the death of a patient. Hospices offer one on one support as well as bereavement groups, among other resources.
7. Hospice is a benefit you are entitled to
Hospice services are a benefit you have a right to under Medicare. Once you enroll in hospice services, the Medicare hospice benefit should cover everything you need.
If you have any questions about hospice, now is the time to ask your care team. Having these discussions with your loved ones can reduce stress at a later time if you are able to make your wishes known now. The goal of hospice is to provide compassionate and high quality care at the end of life, something which every person is entitled to. For more information about hospice, check out the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.