What is Hospice?Hospice is a service that provides specialized care for you or your family member who is facing a life-limiting illness. It allows patients to spend their final days at home with family and friends. Compassionate care and emotional support is also offered to family and friends during this time.
Hospice care is important because it provides many benefits that are not possible in a traditional health care setting. Because Hospice programs are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance providers, no one is excluded from service regardless of their financial resources. Anyone may make a referral call to hospice for care. Hospice cares for all types of terminal illness, not just cancer. Patients no longer seeking curative treatment, whose life expectancy is measured in months or less are eligible for Hospice care.
When to Choose Hospice Care?The decision to choose hospice care can be difficult as the patient and family accepts the shift in focus from curative to comfort. Hospice offers support and encouragement that all patients and families deserve during the final months of life.
Who Benefits from Hospice Care?Hospice is unique in that it includes support for a patient's family during the illness as well as for a year after the patient's death. Although the disease and its symptoms happen to the patient, the illness affects the entire family. Facing illness and death as a family can help to make this time easier, though not all families can be open to share their feelings.
A loved one's terminal illness presents a time of uncertainty and emotional vulnerability. The patient may be resigned to the reality of his or her impending death, and family members may feel angry, thinking their loved one has given up. This anger often is a result of frustration or sorrow. A family member may find it is easier to share these feelings with outside sources, such as a nurse, counselor, clergy, trusted friend or hospice team member, who can encourage family members to talk, listen, and help one another.
Children have special needs in dealing with the impending death of someone they love. Depending on their age and stage of development, death may have different meanings for children. Hospice provides help in answering children's questions honestly at an appropriate level, and it offers bereavement programs that support the whole family in dealing with the emotional and spiritual issues of their loss.
The best time to learn about hospice is before it is needed. The earlier hospice is involved, the more it can make the patient's final days, weeks, and months as comfortable and satisfying as possible. Many surviving family members say, "I do not know what I would have done without hospice."