Hospice care is an alternative to traditional end-of-life care that focuses on quality of life rather than quantity. Hospice care provides comfort and support to those who are facing a terminal illness by combining medical and nursing care with a focus on services such as pain management, end-of-life counseling, and social work services.
Hospice services come in different packages and with different levels of intensity. The services you receive will depend entirely on your needs and wishes. It can be difficult to consider your end-of-life plan, but understanding the different types of care available to you can empower you to make the right decision for yourself.
Hospice care is meant to help ease your suffering and ensure that all of your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs are being met. For most patients, hospice care is covered by the Medicare hospice benefit. You may also have coverage for hospice care through your private insurance.
The level of hospice care you choose will depend on your particular circumstances and wishes. There are four main categories of hospice programs: home hospice, continuous hospice care, inpatient hospice care, and respite care. Let’s take a closer look at categoy to give you a better idea of what to expect and help you understand your hospice care options.
When Is Hospice Care Needed?
Hospice care is palliative end-of-life care that is granted to patients who have six months or less to live. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, patients with advanced diagnoses of cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and respiratory diseases are the most common diagnoses associated with hospice.
It can be difficult to know when your loved one needs hospice care, so be sure to discuss it carefully with your loved one’s doctors and care team. If mobility and quality of life are starting to decline and painful symptoms are on the rise, and/or if the patient is no longer able to care for themselves—these can all be signs that hospice care may need to be considered.
Home hospice care is—as it sounds—when a patient receives hospice care at home. This may be either because they are too sick to be admitted to a hospice facility or because they choose to stay at home. Home hospice care focuses on keeping the patient as comfortable and calm as possible.
Typically, the person who chooses home hospice care is someone with a short-term need. Home hospice care is not a long-term solution. If you’re terminally ill and residing at home, home hospice care can make a world of difference. You’ll not only receive professional medical care but also care from a team that can help you and your loved ones cope with the changes that accompany the end of life.
You can expect services from home hospice care to include medication administration and monitoring, nursing care, dietary and nutritional guidance, emotional and spiritual counseling, and help with daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting. You may also receive assistance with transportation to appointments and grocery delivery if you’re too ill to leave the house.
Continuous Hospice Care
Continuous hospice care is also referred to as crisis care. This level of hospice care is usually necessary when a patient is in a medical crisis or experiencing extreme symptoms. This may be the best hospice choice if your end-of-life care requires intensive management and around-the-clock nursing.
Continuous hospice care ensures that the patient’s suffering is reduced as much as possible with constant monitoring and care. This level of care also allows caregivers to take a step back from performing needed tasks and allows them to focus on spending quality time with their loved ones during their final days.
In-patient Hospice Care
In-patient hospice care means living at the hospice facility. Hospice in-patient care can be beneficial for several reasons:
First, hospice in-patient care provides a safe, supportive environment for patients who are not as mobile as they used to be. Persons experiencing a sudden decrease in mobility due to a serious illness may benefit greatly from this type of care.
Second, hospice in-patient care is helpful for patients who need more medical attention than home hospice care can provide. The in-patient setting provides a controlled, comfortable environment for patients requiring special medical attention, such as intravenous feeding.
In-patient hospice care is appropriate for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less and require high levels of medical supervision and/or social services. In-patient hospice care provides 24-hour medical supervision and support from hospice staff and volunteers.
The goal is to help stabilize symptoms and return the patient home if possible. However, some people choose to stay in their in-patient facility right up to the end of their life. It is a stable, neutral space to be cared for and spend time with their loved ones.
Most in-patient hospice facilities also offer respite care services. If your loved one requires special palliative care or is receiving hospice care at home, you can use these respite services to ensure that their quality of life does not suffer while you are away. Whether you have to travel for work or family matters, plan a wedding, attend a birth, take care of your home, or just need a short break during this difficult time, respite care can help caregivers avoid burnout by giving them the time and space they need to breathe.
How Much Does Hospice Care Cost?
Hospice care is covered by Medicare and/or private insurance, so it is provided at no or low cost to the patient. However, there may be certain medical costs associated with special treatments.
The hospice benefit is only for those with a six-month diagnosis. If the patient needs care for longer than six months, it may cost more to extend their treatment. Qualifications and requirements can vary widely, so if you have any questions, contact your care coordinator. They will be able to direct you to the programs and services that best fit your economic status.
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