Many terminally ill patients and their loved ones are faced with the challenge of selecting an appropriate hospice care provider during an already difficult time. Hospice and palliative care options provide a more comfortable and dignified alternative to the often impersonal and sterile environment of a hospital. Palliative medicine can greatly improve someone’s quality of life in their final months and in turn, can help ease the suffering of their family members and friends. Pursuing hospice and palliative care isn’t about abandoning hope or accelerating death. Instead, it’s a way to arrange the most appropriate care for your loved one in the last phase of his or her life.
The death process is understandably frightening and upsetting to most people. Beginning the search for a hospice care provider can be overwhelming. This post will provide some basic information about hospice and palliative care, and list questions all families should ask before selecting a hospice care provider.
What is hospice care?
Hospice care is a treatment option traditionally reserved for people whose life expectancy is six months or less. It involves palliative care, which is focused on the relief of pain and symptoms, rather than ongoing curative measures. The goal of hospice and palliative care is to allow your loved one to live his or her final days to the fullest, with dignity and support.
Where is hospice care provided?
Some hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities provide onsite hospice care to patients. There are some dedicated residential hospice care facilities which focus exclusively on hospice and palliative care. In many cases, hospice care is provided in the patient’s own home. This allows the patient to spend his or her final days in a familiar environment, surrounded by family and loved ones, with the support of professional hospice staff.
How does hospice care work?
Hospice care is holistic in nature and focuses on all aspects of a patient’s well-being, including his or her physical health, emotions, social needs, and spirituality. Most hospice care facilities retain an interdisciplinary team of care providers that might include physicians, hospice doctors, case managers, registered nurses, counselors, dieticians, therapists, social workers, pharmacologists, and ministers or other religious leaders. In-home hospice services offer patients access to many of these same trained professionals.
The hospice team will develop a care plan that addresses the patient’s needs for symptom relief and pain management. When hospice care is provided in the home, a family member may act as the primary caregiver under the supervision of medical staff. Certified home health aides may be sent to the home if needed. When hospice care is provided in a healthcare or other facility, hospice team members will make regular visits to the patient to assess his or her needs and provide additional care and assistance as necessary. Hospice care teams are typically on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition to healthcare and medical treatment, hospice care teams may provide emotional and spiritual support to the patient and his or her loved ones. The hospice team remains available to the patient until death, and can assist his or her family members and friends in the grieving process afterward.
What should I ask potential hospice care providers?
Choosing the right hospice care provider for your loved one and your family can be very difficult. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking potential hospice care providers before moving forward with hospice care:
- Who is in charge of hospice care at your facility or within your organization? Is he or she a medical doctor? Is he or she a board-certified hospice care provider?
- Is your facility or organization accredited by a nationally-recognized accrediting body, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare organizations?
- Is your facility or organization Medicare certified and in compliance with federal minimum requirements for patient care and management?
- Who will be responsible for developing the hospice plan? How much input will the patient and our family members have?
- Can I meet the nursing staff at your facility or within your organization before making a decision?
- How many patients does your facility or organization care for at one time? How quickly do you respond to calls from patients and/or their family members?
- How will caregiving responsibilities be divided between hospice care staff and family members and friends?
- Is your facility or organization faith-based? Will your staff respect the patient’s faith and that of our family?
- Can your facility or organization provide references from professionals, such as doctors, hospital staff, or social workers?
- Is there a 24-hour telephone number that the patient and our family can call with questions?
- How do you assist family members and friends of the patient during the bereavement process?
We hope this post has provided you with helpful information during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about hospice and palliative care that you may have.
About Senior Path:
We are a professional, senior housing advisory service which provides personal attention to Seniors and their families. We employ a staff of talented, caring Advisors who have vast experience helping Seniors and their families through this transition. Our Advisors have extensive backgrounds in the Senior Care industry enabling them to understand what Seniors want and need.