November is National Home Care and Hospice Month. Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice is a local, not for profit affiliate of Lincoln Health System, and offers both Home Health and Hospice services. “Hospice has been a Medicare benefit for over 25 years, and is a provision of many private insurance plans and yet most of the general public, including many health care professionals, don’t fully appreciate the care that hospice can offer,” explains Susie Compton, RN, Administrator for the agency. “Perhaps it is a reluctance to talk about death and end of life, or a feeling that if we abandon an aggressive, curative approach to serious health problems we are ‘giving up’. I think it is a combination of factors, but I know without a doubt that hospice can provide an unsurpassed level of relief and support to patients and families facing a terminal illness. We always use the opportunity of National Home Care Month to provide information about this invaluable service”.
What is Hospice Care? Hospice care is a type of home care that is provided to patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and who have a limited life expectancy. “Patients and families who choose hospice care have determined that they want to focus on comfort care and caregiver support. Comfort care doesn’t mean LESS care,” explains Larry Cozart, RN. “Our hospice patients may have issues with pain, nausea, shortness of breath or other physical symptoms that are impacting the quality of their lives. They and their families are frequently dealing with anxiety or grief issues. The hospice team works together, with the guidance of our Medical Director, Dr. William Jones, to respond quickly to such distressing complaints. Nurses are available 24 hours a day to respond to questions and concerns”. Hospice services are provided by an interdisciplinary team composed of nurses, a physician, hospice aides, a social worker and bereavement coordinator, chaplain, volunteers, and pharmacists.
Isn’t hospice care just for cancer patients? Hospice is for patients with a terminal disease, whether that disease is cancer or other end stage conditions. Compton explains, “Hospice does provide quality palliative care to numerous cancer patients. However, more than one-half of hospice patients have diagnoses other than cancer, such as advanced dementia, congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease, end-stage liver or kidney disease, or other conditions. Sometimes patients are suffering from a combination of chronic ailments and are less able to respond positively to treatment. Patients must meet medical criteria that determine their eligibility to receive hospice care”.
Is it true that choosing hospice means that a patient will die very soon? “This depends on the patient’s condition when admitted to hospice”, explains Debbie Groce, RN. “If the patient is extremely debilitated or actively dying at the time of admission, then a stay with hospice can be limited to a few hours to days. However, receiving hospice care does not mean that a patient is giving up hope or that death is imminent. The earlier an individual receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize his or her medical condition and address other emotional and spiritual needs”. Studies have shown that when symptoms are well controlled, and patients and families are receiving careful monitoring and treatment, hospice patients live LONGER than patients with similar conditions who continue treatment. Hospice patients do not have to be homebound and are encouraged to be as active as possible for as long as possible.
Can I continue to use my own doctors once I start hospice? “Patients may keep their own physician, who will work closely with the Hospice Medical Director to plan and carry out care, says Amy Bates, RN, Patient Care Coordinator. “Patients typically do not continue to make visits to their doctor, but call the Hospice agency to meet their needs and communicate with their physician(s). If a hospice patient improves or the patient chooses to resume curative treatment, then hospice can be revoked and the patient resumes care under his or her physician”.
Where can a patient receive hospice care? Although some hospices are inpatient facilities, routine hospice care usually takes place in the comfort of home, but can be provided in any environment in which an individual lives, including assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Currently, Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice provides hospice care in the patient’s home, assisted living facilities, and at Donalson and Lincoln Care Centers.
How is hospice care paid? Hospice care is a Medicare benefit. Most private insurers also cover hospice care as well. The benefit will pay for all care, equipment, and medications associated with the patient’s terminal diagnosis. Lincoln Medical Home Health and Hospice is committed to caring for all patients, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.
The public is encouraged to call the agency at (931) 433 – 8088 or visit the website for Lincoln Health System at http://www.lchealthsystem.com/ . Questions can also be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org