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Hospice Is Not Just For The Last Day

 Posted by Jim Morgan on November 12, 2019 at 5:49 PM

The word hospice has a very dark connotation tied to it. When people hear the word “hospice,” they think that the end is just around the corner. Maybe they have had a family member or friend who utilized hospice for their “final days;” however, hospice is so much more than just the “final days.”

Hospice is a philosophy of caring: hospice cares for the mind, body, and spirit. Hospice is the only Medicare benefit that is intended not only for the patient themselves, but also for the family and loved ones. Hospice is introduced when a care team has done everything they can to cure an individual and full recovery is no longer attainable. Often times hospice is tied to cancer and oncology, however hospice is greatly used in other avenues of disease as well. Take heart disease for example, which is the number one cause of death in America, cardiologists may therefore prescribe hospice. Lung disease affects many people in our midst, so pulmonogists are also prescribing hospice. Ultimately, any physician or nurse practitioner may prescribe hospice as supportive care for an individual.

According to Medicare, to be eligible for hospice a physician must certify that a patient has a terminal disease that, if it runs its normal course, could take this person’s life in six months. However, with that being said, there are actually many patients who stay on hospice services much longer. Because no one knows when someone is going to lake their last breath, and often times diseases do not always follow their “normal course,” hospice is therefore not just for the last days.

Some questions to consider when contemplating if hospice may be a service for your loved one include the following: Is my loved on a course that they are recovering from, or are they on a decline? Is my loved one just tired of all the treatments and appointments and just wants to be comfortable? Are we simply tired of coming and going to the hospital? All of these are fair questions to ask and assess by the individual as well as the family when considering hospice services.

Would it surprise you to know that over half of hospice eligible patients never receive hospice services? The majority of patients who actually do receive hospice services are only on service for less than one month. One myth that leads to this outcome is due to the fact that families believe, by no fault of their own, that the physician or hospital will bring up and recommend hospice when it is time. Sadly, however, this is often not the case. The individual and the family can and should assess their needs and ask the physician, on their own accord, for a consult with hospice when you feel like you could benefit from hospice services.

So what exactly do hospice services provide? First, it should be noted that hospice is a Medicare benefit that’s covered at 100%. Remember that hospice is for individuals who have a disease that COULD take their life in six months. Hospice is not a place but a philosophy of caring, rather than focusing on curative treatments to prolong life, hospice treats with a focus on comfort and the quality of life. The hospice team consists of physicians, registered nurses, home health aids, social workers, chaplains, pharmacists, and dietitians, some hospice services also provide ancillary services like pet therapy, music

therapy and even massage therapy. Hospice comes to the individual wherever they are, at home, at an assisted living facility, or long term care facility.

Thank you to our Guest Blogger, Craig Stull, Account Liaison with Heartland Home Hospice Care. 317-251-3012