Hospice care assists patients, families - Word&Way

Hospice care assists patients, families

But in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes. — Benjamin Franklin

Planning for life's difficult times has been the theme for my last few columns. Dealing with terminal illness is one such time we need to include in our aging plan. Hospice care is an option one should consider to meet the challenges this possibility will present.

The word hospice is "rooted in the centuries-old idea of offering a place of shelter and rest, or 'hospitality' to weary and sick travelers on a long journey," according to Helpguide.org. The present day hospice movement began in 1967 when Dr. Cicely Sounders established St. Christopher's Hospice treatment center in London.

Dr. Sounders encouraged pain control for the patient, plus emotional, spiritual, psychological and practical support for him/her and the family. She viewed the dying patient and family as one care unit needing support as they go through the final stages of the patient's life.

Although some hospice programs have a residential facility, hospice is not so much a place, but a healthcare concept. Its objective is to maximize the quality of life for the terminally ill patient and her/his family so they can make the most of the time remaining.

While some hospitals and long-term care facilities provide hospice care on site, most hospice care takes place in the patient's home, in familiar surroundings as the person and family members prepare for a meaningful life end.     

The hospice goal is to meet the needs of terminally ill individuals and their families by addressing their emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual suffering. In no way does the hospice movement want to prolong or to hasten the dying process.

Hospice is an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare structured to meet each individual's unique needs.

A person's hospice team may include a combination of physicians, nurses, physical, occupational, or speech therapists, home care aides, dietitians, chaplains, social workers, psychologists, counselors, financial advisors and volunteers. This team provides the family with a variety of service, such as medical treatment, counseling, spiritual support, social services, house cleaning, meal preparation, caregiver respite, bereavement support, grief counseling, and physical, occupational and/or speech therapy.

To receive hospice services, the patient, family and physician must agree that the patient has six months or less to live. Care is available for individuals of any age. A person may go on and off hospice care as health improves, or as he/she decides to return to curative treatment.

Hospice care generally costs less than inpatient care in a nursing home or hospital because the patient only pays for the specific services needed. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans cover hospice services. Medicare requires hospice care to be provided at home, with only short stays in an inpatient facility.

Patients usually pay their co-pay and any services not covered by their insurance plan. If one has limited funds, the hospice organization generally will provide services by using funds raised through donations and charitable foundation grants.

My next column will cover ways to find a reputable hospice care provider.

Frank Fain is the senior adult specialist for The Baptist Home.