What Is Hospice Care?
End-of-life care includes hospice. Hospice care is an option for everyone with six months or less to live, despite the misconception that it is just for cancer patients who no longer want to accept treatment. When you get hospice care, the goal is no longer to improve your condition or lengthen your life. Instead, you’ll get the care that aims to make the time you have left as comfortable as possible while also easing your discomfort.
What Is Hospice Care?
The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of life for patients and their carers with advanced, terminal illnesses. Hospice care offers compassionate care to let patients in the latter stages of an incurable disease live as comfortably and fully as possible. The hospice ideology affirms life while not attempting to hurry or postpone death. Instead, it recognizes death as the final stage of existence.
Instead of treating the disease, hospice care focuses on the patient and their symptoms. So that a person’s final days can be spent with dignity and quality, accompanied by their loved ones, a team of professionals collaborates to control symptoms. Hospice care is family-centered; decisions are made with the patient and family in mind.
Who can benefit from hospice care?
A terminally sick individual who is anticipated to have six months or fewer to live receives hospice care. However, hospice care can be given as long as the patient’s physician and the hospice care team vouch that the disease continues to be life-limiting. Most hospice patients have cancer, although other conditions such as heart disease, dementia, kidney failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also affect hospice patients.
Early hospice care enrollment improves and lengthens your quality of life. Hospice care lessens the strain on the family, lowers the risk that the family may experience complicated grieving, and helps family members prepare for their loved one’s passing. Hospice also enables a patient to receive care in a facility for a while, not because the patient needs it but rather so the family caregiver can take a break. Respite care is what this is.
When should hospice care start?
When a condition, such as advanced cancer, reaches the stage where treatment can no longer manage or cure it, hospice care is administered. Hospice care should generally be employed when a patient’s estimated lifespan if their illness progresses as expected, is no more than six months. Advanced cancer patients should consult with their doctor, family, and other caregivers to determine when hospice care should start.
According to studies, hospice treatment is frequently started too late. Because they believe hospice implies “giving up” or there is no hope, the doctor, patient, or family member will sometimes fight it. Therefore, it’s crucial to be aware that you have the option to enter active cancer therapy at any moment after leaving hospice. But the promise hospice offers is a good life, making the most of each day while suffering from a terminal illness.
All doctors may not mention hospice. Thus the patient or a family member may opt to bring it up. Ask your doctor or a member of your cancer care team about hospice if your treatment isn’t working any longer and you’ve exhausted all other choices.
What does hospice care provide?
All hospice providers must provide certain services. However, their employment structures, service delivery methods, and support service offerings frequently differ.
Palliative care and symptom control
Supportive care, symptom management, or comfort care are additional names for palliative care. It can be provided independently of hospice care (for instance, during ongoing cancer therapy). Still, it’s frequently included in hospice care if cancer is no longer treatable because it has gotten worse. Cancer itself is not treated by palliative care. Instead, it’s administered as early as feasible to prevent or treat adverse effects and symptoms.
Palliative care helps relieve symptoms, discomfort, and stress and examines how the cancer experience affects the whole person as part of hospice care. It offers patients options and enables them to participate in their treatment planning, along with their caregivers. It’s about ensuring that all their care needs are addressed. The specialists who make up the palliative care team can assist in identifying and treating any potential mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual problems.
Making patients as comfortable as possible while yet allowing them to enjoy their final stages of life is the fundamental objective of incorporating palliative care into hospice treatments. This entails managing discomfort, pain, nausea, and other side effects to ensure that you feel as good as possible while remaining awake enough to appreciate the people around you and make significant decisions.
Home care and inpatient hospice care
Sometimes you need to stay in a hospital, long-term care facility, or an inpatient hospice center, even though most hospice care is provided at the patient’s home. Your home hospice team can arrange for inpatient care and will continue to be involved in your care and with your family. You can return to in-home care when you and your family are prepared.
Spiritual care is designed to fit your unique needs because everyone has different spiritual demands and religious views. It can entail supporting you as you consider what death means, as you say goodbye, or participate in a particular religious rite or ritual.
Family members are informed about their condition and what to expect through planning sessions, which the hospice nurse or social worker frequently facilitates. These meetings also allow everyone a chance to share feelings, talk about what’s happening and what’s required, and learn about death and dying. Through these gatherings, family members can receive excellent support and stress alleviation. During normal visits, the nurse or nursing assistant may also casually offer you and your caregivers daily updates.
Coordination of care
The hospice team plans and directs all care seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. This team is in charge of ensuring information sharing amongst all involved services. This may involve the inpatient facility, the doctor, and other community professionals, such as pharmacists, clergy, and funeral directors. Any time of the day or night, you and your caregivers are encouraged to contact your hospice staff if you need anything. There is always someone available to assist you with any needs. Hospice care gives you and your loved ones the reassurance that you are never alone and may always obtain assistance.
Some hospice programs provide respite care for patients receiving at-home care so that loved ones can take a break from providing care. Up to 5-day periods can be used for respite care, during which the cancer patient is taken care of at a hospice facility or in a bed designated in a nursing home or hospital. While you receive care in an inpatient facility, your family can arrange a short getaway, attend special events, or take some much-needed rest at home.
The time following a loss is known as the bereavement phase. The hospice care staff assists surviving family members in navigating the grief process. Through visits, phone conversations, or other forms of communication, as well as support groups, survivors receive help from a trained volunteer, clergyperson, or professional counselor. If necessary, the hospice staff can direct family members and friends who provide care to other medical or professional care providers. Bereavement services are frequently offered for roughly a year following the patient’s passing.
Who’s involved in hospice care?
Hospice professionals will regularly visit you in your home or another location if you are not getting care at a hospice facility. All seven days of the week, hospice staff is available round-the-clock. Typically, a hospice care team consists of:
- The care will be managed by a primary care physician, a hospice physician, or a medical director. The primary physician of each patient is their choice. For example, a hospice physician or your previous physician could be this.
- To offer care, nurses will travel to the house or another location of you or a family member. Coordination of the hospice care team is another duty they have.
- Home health assistants. Home health aides can offer additional assistance with daily activities, including dressing, bathing, and eating.
- Spiritual Counselors. The entire family can receive spiritual care and direction from chaplains, priests, lay ministers, or other spiritual advisors.
- A social worker. Social workers offer counseling and support. They may also offer recommendations for other assistance programs.
- Pharmacists supervise the use of medications and offer advice on the best ways to treat symptoms.
- Trained volunteers provide various services, such as companionship or respite for caregivers, assistance with transportation, or other user requirements.
- Other professionals. If necessary, therapy can be given by speech, physical, or occupational therapists.
- Counselors for bereavement. After a loved one passes away in hospice, trained bereavement counselors provide support and direction.
How does someone initiate hospice care?
While many people and families could benefit from hospice care, they are unsure how to do so. Some people are hesitant to bring it up, others wait for their doctor to recommend it, and still, others are unaware that, provided certain conditions are met, they can start hospice care independently. Nevertheless, numerous people and families have expressed their desire to receive hospice care sooner.
It’s crucial to inform healthcare professionals that hospice care is preferred rather than waiting for them to bring it up. For hospice care to be available:
- A hospice physician and a second physician (typically the individual’s attending physician or specialist) must verify that the patient meets particular medical eligibility criteria demonstrating that an individual’s life expectancy is 6 months or less if the illness or condition continues its regular course. Depending on the ailment or condition, these standards change.
- The attending/specialist doctor familiar with the patient’s medical history typically refers the patient for hospice care, and the hospice doctor verifies the patient’s eligibility.
- It is possible to refer oneself or one’s family (the person or family may contact hospice directly), but doctors must verify eligibility before getting care.
The patient may still be eligible for hospice care even if their doctor declines to refer them or if they haven’t seen one in a while. In this case, they or their family members can contact a local hospice provider for further information about the admissions procedure.
What’s not included in hospice care?
- Treatment, including prescribed medications, for a terminal illness or other sicknesses unrelated to the terminal diagnosis, unless the unrelated condition is making the symptoms of the terminal illness more severe.
- Prescription medicines and equipment are needed to address a disease or condition unrelated to the hospice-eligible diagnosis.
- Boarding and lodging in a hospice care center or nursing home.
- Except when directed or organized by the hospice team, emergency department care, inpatient facility care, or ambulance transportation are not permitted.
What if I get better?
Hospice care might end if you improve. This could occur if cancer gets better or enters remission. The condition is known as remission when there are no symptoms and no signs of cancer in the body. You and your doctor might restart treatment for a cure if the cancer improves. This is unusual. The aim of treatment, however, is typically to alleviate the symptoms that the malignancy is producing. It is generally unlikely that the treatment will result in a recovery. Your doctor will frequently check for indications of cancer to ensure that it remains in remission if cancer goes into remission.
Is hospice care as good as treatment?
When cancer is first discovered, most individuals hope for a cure. Hospice treatment is unique. When a cure is not possible, the objective is to make you feel better. When severe treatments are halted, and symptoms are aggressively treated, this can frequently make people feel significantly better. Most patients feel better and live longer when hospice care is initiated earlier. Hospice care can assist people in achieving their objectives, such as spending more time with loved ones and less time in the doctor’s office. As with hospitals, physicians, and nurses, there are national standards for hospice care. You can choose hospice care that complies with rigorous requirements.
Where you get hospice care
Hospice care is typically provided at home. A care facility, such as a nursing home or a specialized hospice facility, is a further choice. Even in hospitals, some patients receive hospice care. You can learn more about hospice at home and other settings by reading the information below.
- Hospice care at home. Most of your care is typically provided by a family member or close friend. The hospice crew visits your home to assist. They could assist you with eating or taking a shower, for instance. Or they could provide medical assistance. They can also visit you at home to allow your primary caregiver a break.
- Hospice treatment in different locations. Inpatient hospice care is the medical term for hospice care received away from home. This means you receive hospice care at a nursing home, hospice facility, hospice house, or another location. Find a location where your family and friends can visit easily if you want this kind of hospice.
Palliative care is available to anyone who has been diagnosed with a chronic, life-altering illness. However, only those with terminal illnesses or less than six months to live can get hospice care. See your doctor or other healthcare practitioners to determine which care is most appropriate for you or a loved one.
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