What is Hospice?

What is Hospice and Palliative Care?

Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a life- limiting illness or injury, hospice and palliative care involve a team- oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient' s loved ones as well. At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain- free with dignity and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and, in most cases, care is provided in the patient's home. Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals and nursing homes and other long- term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed care organizations.

Palliative care extends the principles of hospice care to a broader population that could benefit from receiving this type of care earlier in their illness or disease process. No specific therapy is excluded from consideration. An individual’s needs must be continually assessed and treatment options should be explored and evaluated in the context of the individual’s values and symptoms. Palliative care, ideally, would segue into hospice care as the illness progresses.

How does hospice care work?

Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on- call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The hospice team develops a care plan that meets each patient's individual needs for pain management and symptom control. The team usually consists of:

• The patient' s personal physician;
• Hospice physician (or medical director);
• Nurses;
• Home health aides;
• Social workers;
• Clergy or other counselors;
• Trained volunteers;
• Speech, physical and occupational therapists (if needed).

What services are provided?

Among its major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team:

• Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms;
• Assists the patient with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying;
• Provides needed drugs, medical supplies and equipment;
• Coaches the family on how to care for the patient;
• Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed;
• Makes short- term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home or the caregiver needs respite time;
• Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.

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