What Is Hospice And How Does It Work
Hospice is a word we’ve all heard and have probably formed an opinion about, especially if we are involved in elder care in any way.
However, until someone you know has been the recipient of hospice care, you probably don’t really know much about it and how it works.
As the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement age – the group currently numbers around 70 million and is now between 57 and 75 years of age – it becomes important to understand what hospice is and when you or a loved ones might need it. While age is not at all a determining factor for hospice care as you’ll see, I hope the information I’m providing helps deepen your understanding.
Elder Care When Someone Is Not Expected To Live Longer Than Six Months
Hospice is for patients whose doctor formally confirms that they are not expected to live longer than six months. Of course, sometimes the person lives longer than six months and remains in hospice care. However, hospice focuses on treating symptoms, not curing an illness. Hospice care is specifically designed to improve the quality of life for patients and their families facing the problems that come along with life-threatening illnesses.
Hospice Care Is Provided By A Team
When someone receives hospice care, they are served by an entire team with special skills. On the team are nurses, doctors, social workers, spiritual advisors, as well as trained volunteers. Everyone on the team works together with the person who is dying, the caregiver, and/or the family to provide the medical, emotional, and spiritual support need. That care is available in some form around the clock. Typically you’ll have a specific member of the hospice team who visits regularly, and someone is usually available by phone — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Four Levels Of Hospice Care
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has defined four kinds, or “levels,” of hospice care. One patient may experience all four levels in a very short period of time, perhaps in just a week or ten days of hospice services. Another patient may experience one level of care over several months. Each level of care meets specific needs, and every hospice patient is unique.
By law, every Medicare-certified hospice provider must provide these four levels of care:
Hospice Care At Home
Routine home care is a range of services you receive where you live. This care is for times when you are not in a medical crisis. Members of your hospice care team will visit you at home. But they can also visit you in a skilled nursing facility, an assisted living facility, or any other place you live. They will bring the services you need to you.
Continuous Home Care
Continuous home care is for times of crisis when a higher level of nursing care is required. These services may make it easier for the person receiving care to stay in his or her home even when symptoms get more severe. Continuous home care means you need a nurse for at least eight hours in a 24-hour period. You may also be receiving help from other hospice team members at the same time, but at least half the care must be supplied by a nurse.
Inpatient Hospice Care
There may be times when you have short-term symptoms so severe they can’t be treated at home. You may need an inpatient facility. With inpatient care, nurses can give you medication, treatments, and support around the clock.
Respite care is designed more for the caregiver than the patient. This care provides a way for caregivers and family members who are not completely independent to get a much-needed break. It gives caregivers some relief from their often around the clock duties to allow them to relax and have time away from caregiving. A break from caregiving can be something as small as running errands or even taking a small vacation.