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Frequently Asked Questions About Hospice

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What is hospice care and when should it begin?

Hospice is special end-of-life care for individuals with life-limiting illnesses. Hospice is a patient and family support service that keeps the patient comfortable, teaches the family to provide care, and offers emotional and spiritual support. Hospice is a type of care, rather than a specific place of care, that focuses on comfort rather than cure. The earlier a person is referred, the more Heart 'n Home can do to help. Sadly, many people believe that hospice is unavailable or inappropriate until literally, the last days of a person's life. Through hospice services, patients can enjoy a better quality of life.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a treatment that focuses on relieving suffering and improving the quality of life for seriously ill patients and their families.

Is the decision for hospice care giving up hope or waiting to die?

No. Hospice is about living. Hospice strives to bring quality of life and comfort to a patient and their family. Our successes are in helping a patient and family live fully until the end. Often patients will feel better with effective pain and symptom management. Hospice is an experience of care and support, different from any other type of care.

How is hospice care paid for?

Hospice is covered 100% by Medicare, Medicaid, and by most private insurances. Heart 'n Home has never turned a patient away due to inability to pay for hospice services.

Who pays for hospice care in a nursing home?

The Medicare Hospice Benefit allows hospice in nursing homes for eligible Medicare and Medicaid individuals, as long as a hospice and a nursing home have formed an agreement. In a nursing home, hospice is not financially responsible for the room and board charges. If a patient is on Idaho Medicaid, Medicaid reimburses Heart 'n Home for hospice, as well as room and board charges by the nursing home.

Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice or should I raise it first?

The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other health care professionals, clergy, or friends. Studies prove that hospice should be discussed before the need, which will ease anxiety. Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician wants more information, it is available from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Helpline, 1-800-658-8898 or from Heart 'n Home toll free at (866) 278-3662.

What does the hospice admission process involve?

It's easy! All we need is a physician's order and your loved one can be admitted. Heart 'n Home has a Medical Director available to assist patients who have no physician. The patient will be asked to sign consent and appropriate admission forms, similar to the forms patients sign when they enter a hospital.

Does hospice provide 24 hour in-home care?

No. Hospice provides intermittent nursing visits to assess, monitor, and treat symptoms as well as teach family and caregivers the skills they need to care for the patient. Members of the Heart 'n Home team are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions or visit anytime the need for support arises.

What specific assistance does hospice provide?

Heart 'n Home patients are cared for by a team of Physicians, Nurses, Social Workers, Bereavement Counselors, Hospice Aides, Clergy, and Volunteers. In addition, Heart 'n Home provides medications, supplies, and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis.

How does hospice "manage" pain?

Heart 'n Home believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it can address each. Heart 'n Home has an extremely high success rate in battling pain. Using some combinations of medications, counseling, and therapies, most patients can be kept pain free, comfortable, and peaceful. Heart 'n Home Nurses will assess your pain and symptom control at each visit and Medical Directors are always available.

Are all hospices the same?

No. "Hospice" is a medical specialty like pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, etc. and each hospice is a different company. All hospices have the same services, but their philosophies may differ. It is your right to request the hospice of your choice where more than one hospice serves your area.

Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what's happening?

Usually not. It is the goal of Heart 'n Home to have the patient as pain free and alert as possible. By constantly consulting with the patient, Heart 'n Home has been very successful in reaching this goal.

Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?

Yes. Heart 'n Home provides continued contact and support to caregivers for 13 months following the death of a loved one. These services may include personal visits, information concerning the grief process, and opportunities for group support. Heart 'n Home also sponsors Grief and Loss Support Groups and support for anyone in the community who has experienced a death of a family member, a friend, or similar losses.

Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment and/or curative treatment?

Certainly. If the patient's condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about their daily life. The patient may also choose to leave hospice and return to curative treatment. Hospice care is always a choice. If the discharged patient should later need or want to return to hospice care, the patient may re-activate their benefit.

Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?

Heart 'n Home will assess your needs, recommend any equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain any necessary equipment. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient, clean, and safe as possible.

Must someone be with the patient at all times?

In the early weeks of care, it's usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, Heart 'n Home can provide Crisis Care during times of crisis for families. While family and friends do deliver most of the care, Heart 'n Home can also provide volunteer support to assist with errands or to provide a break and time away for primary caregivers.

How many family members or friends does it take to care for a dying loved one at home?

There's no set number. Heart 'n Home will prepare an individualized Plan of Care that will, among other things, address the amount of caregiving needed for the patient. Heart 'n Home staff visit regularly and are always accessible to answer medical questions, provide support, and teach caregivers.

Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?

Hospice neither hastens nor postpones dying. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of child birth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the end-of-life process.

Is caring for the patient at home the only place hospice care can be delivered?

No. Heart 'n Home cares for the patient regardless of their residence. Although most of a hospice patient's time is spent in a personal residence, patients also live in nursing homes, a family's home, or hospice houses.

Is Heart 'n Home affiliated with any religious organization?

No. While some churches and religious groups have started hospices (sometimes in connection with their hospitals), these hospices serve a broad community and do not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs. Heart 'n Home has Board Certified Chaplains on staff to support individuals of any religious denomination.