What Is Hospice Care?
Hospice is a special healthcare option for patients and families who are faced with a terminal illness. A multi-disciplinary team of physicians, nurses, hospice aides, social workers, bereavement counselors, and volunteers works together to address the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of each patient and family.
Hospice care is compassionate care for aging adults who are nearing the end of life, who are suffering from a chronic or terminal illness. They usually live at home or sometimes at a facility with the assistance of medical caregivers.
Together, a team of physicians, nurses, hospice aides, and bereavement counselors keep track of the patient’s condition and provide comfort for his or her last phase of life.
Patients are eligible for hospice care when they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a prognosis of 6 months or less. At that time, comfort care and symptom management become the primary focus, and curative treatment is no longer the patient’s choice or option.
Hospice care is family-centered, including them in the important decision-making, while also providing them some respite and relaxation from constant caregiving. In addition to the Hospice Care doctors and nurses, other non-medical support may include:
Clergy and/or spiritual counselors
Who qualifies for Hospice Care?
Anyone who is terminally ill, with a life expectancy of 6 months or less, is qualified to receive the benefits of hospice. Usually, the patient’s doctor or specialist will refer this next step of care to relatives, and a second hospice physician will determine if the requirements are fulfilled.
Generally, adults diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, and other terminal diseases make up most Hospice patients but may also include children and adolescents diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses.
Often, many individuals and family members don’t initiate discussions of Hospice, fearing it may be “giving up” on a loved one, but it is important to address quality of care sooner rather than later.
What services does Hospice provide?
Regular visits from Hospice Care caregivers and doctors
Pain medication and medical equipment that includes hospital beds, wheelchairs, oxygen and catheter equipment, bandages
Short-term in-patient care at a facility or hospital if 24-hour care is needed
Visits from physicians and other healthcare workers
Physical and occupational therapy
Short-term respite for family caregivers
Grief and loss counseling for family
How is Palliative Care related to Hospice?
Palliative care is the treatment of preventing symptoms and side effects that may begin before an individual chooses Hospice Care and may continue during hospice. Also called comfort care and supportive care, Palliative care also encompasses the emotional and spiritual needs that concern the end of life phase.
Palliative care can be used to minimize pain and discomfort during any stage of illness, not just terminal illness. Distinct from the medical team that coordinates information of the patient, a palliative care team has its staff who are focused on the management of extending the quality of life and psychological aspects for the individual and family members.