When family members are diagnosed with a terminal illness, at some point the focus of care will shift to making the patient as comfortable as possible during the last stages of their life. Hospice care can be provided by family members, healthcare providers, or a combination of both. Hospice care will change as the patient’s situation changes, especially in times of health emergencies.
While hospice care will always address the physical symptoms of the illness, good hospice services will also provide care for the patient’s and their family’s mental well-being. Let’s take a look at what services hospice will focus on for the terminally ill.
Who Is Hospice Care For?
When we say the “terminally ill”, this typically means patients whose life expectancy is six months or less and when a cure isn’t an option. Life expectancy certainly isn’t an exact science, and some hospice patients may end up staying on hospice services for longer than six months. As long as the patient’s doctor and hospice team attest that the patient’s life is still in a terminal condition, they may continue to receive hospice services. People with cancer, heart disease, dementia, kidney failure, or any incurable condition are often candidates for hospice.
Where Is Hospice Care Provided?
The most common place that hospice care is provided is within the patient’s home, living facility, or nursing home. Some hospices have their own long-term care residential centers where patients are cared for. The patient or family typically covers the cost of living in these situations. During special circumstances when care is needed around the clock, the patient may be transferred to an inpatient facility for a short period of time.
What Are the 4 Different Levels of Hospice Care?
During the end stages of life, a patient’s needs will change as their illness progresses or if health emergencies occur. Hospice agencies provide four different levels of hospice service, and care is tailored to the patient’s and their family’s specific needs.
Routine hospice care is the most common level of care provided to patients. In this level of service, patients are cared for by hospice healthcare professionals in their place of living. They might receive assistance with medications, meal preparation and dietary counseling, physical and occupational therapy, and be provided with medical equipment like a hospital bed, wheelchairs or walkers, and other medical supplies such as oxygen, bandages, and catheters.
The patient may also be provided with spiritual support and grief and loss counseling to help them cope with and accept the end of their life. Grief and loss counseling may also be provided to family members of the patient who may be experiencing anticipatory grief. Family members usually can opt to receive these services up to 13 months after the patient’s passing.
When symptoms of pain and discomfort can’t be managed at home, patients may need to be transferred to an inpatient care unit. The goal of the inpatient care stay is to manage symptoms and return the patient to their home to resume routine hospice care. The typical inpatient care stay length is between two to seven days.
If symptoms become severe or the patient experiences a medical crisis, a hospice care nurse may be recommended to stay with them for extended periods within their home. Examples of this circumstance may include shortness of breath or unrelieved pain. During this level of care, a hospice nurse is usually present eight hours a day for a period of up to five days. The patient’s care team and family will decide whether continuous care or inpatient care is the best course of action.
Caring for a family member in hospice is often a full-time job, and family members do everything they can to help out. Sometimes family members need a break or want to attend special out-of-town events like weddings. Hospice agencies can provide short-term respite care for patients that are unable to be left alone. These services are usually provided at a nursing facility, hospital, or inpatient facility where round-the-clock care can be given.
So What Is Truly the Most Important Focus of Hospice Care?
Hospice care is multifaceted and each aspect of care that contributes to improving the patient’s quality of life is important. Terminally ill patients need symptom management, assistance with tasks of daily living, and physical and mental support in the difficult end-of-life stages. When looking for a hospice agency to care for your loved one, be sure they offer these important aspects, the four levels of care, and employ certified, compassionate, and empathetic hospice healthcare professionals.
Hospice care is provided to qualifying patients with Medicare or Medicaid at no cost in most states. Many hospice agencies also accept private insurance. Your loved one deserves the best care possible as they make their final journey in this life. Be sure to read reviews and research hospice companies when choosing an agency for your loved one.
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About the Creator
Aaron is a content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, he enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.