October 30, 2018

Your Advocacy

By Diana Spranger
Registered Nurse
GolderCare Solutions

Hospice: What Does Hospice Really Mean?

When the word “hospice” comes up in conversation, people often shift their thoughts to “immediate death” for the person they are discussing. I would like to address some of the myths of hospice and give you a clearer picture of this valuable service.

Let’s talk about what hospice is: Hospice is a valuable service to provide medical, emotional and spiritual support near the end of life. Ultimately, hospice is not about dying. It’s about living every day of your life with as much meaning and purpose possible.

When are you eligible for hospice? When you or your family member makes the decision to stop curative/aggressive medical treatment and focus on comfort care, this is the time for you to reach out to a hospice provider. There are several different hospice providers in this area, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Your physician may refer you to a specific hospice provider, but know that your physician does not make that ultimate choice; you can interview as many hospice companies as you desire and you make the decision of which one you want to use. If you are in the hospital and that same suggestion is made, you still have the right to choose. Any time during your experience with a disabling disease, is the right time to have a discussion about services available to you through hospice. Your physician may make a prognosis about your illness in terms of months of life expectancy. A prognosis of 6 months or less is highly indicative that you or your family member is eligible for
hospice services.

Who will pay for hospice services? If you meet criteria for hospice services, you need to know who is paying for those services. Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and private insurance all have a hospice benefit. You need to relay that information to the hospice you are considering and they will check your benefit eligibility. The Medicare benefit pays for needed medical equipment, medicines and supplies. The best way to get a full understanding of what services are covered is to talk with a hospice representative.

Let’s address some myths of hospice:

1. Hospice is only for those who have given up on life. The facts are: Hospice is about living every day of your life that remains to your fullest potential. That always includes living out your life where you choose, whether that be in your home, assisted living, hospital or long-term care.

2. If I sign up with a hospice, I have no voice in my care. The facts are: You and your family (whomever YOU choose) have the last word on all decisions made about your care. This can include the level of pain medication desired and optional therapies such as massage or music therapy. Once you have chosen a hospice, you have the ability to change to a different hospice anytime you wish, without affecting your benefits. You do not give up your right to control your healthcare.

3. The cost of hospice is very expensive. The facts are: The service is a Medicare and Medicaid funded benefit and is covered by most private insurance and Veteran’s benefits.

4. Hospice services are only for those who have a few days left to live. The facts are: The hospice service can intervene at end of life and offer pain control and other medical interventions but the full benefit of hospice services are most uniquely designed to not only meet the medical crisis at life’s final moments but to provide the interventions that will allow the individual to concentrate on relationships with family and friends, make thoughtful decisions about their life and settle spiritual issues as we transition from this life.

5. Hospice care ends abruptly at the patient’s death. The facts are: This is often a benefit left on the table. The full benefit of hospice continues after the death of the person. The hospice benefit provides bereavement care for the family for up to a year following the death. Hospice can provide routine visits, education and other various forms of communication.

I must have a cancer diagnosis to receive hospice benefits.

The facts are: There are a number of diagnoses that will qualify for the hospice benefit. The best way to know this information is to contact a local hospice provider.

I have given you several things to consider but the most important, you need to understand who provides these services and where to find the information you need to know. Locally, we have hospitals with hospices; we have a free-standing hospice house and numerous private hospices. It is important that you know that no matter where the hospice is, they all must operate under the same Medicare guidelines. The best way to find a hospice to interview is to search the Internet, speak to your Health Care provider, speak with family and friends who have used the service, or of course, you can contact GolderCare. One of our Specialists can help guide you through the hospice maze to an appropriate match for your family.

Hospice services are to allow you and your family member to live out the remaining days/months/weeks or years in the best environment hospice can provide. The goal of hospice is that you live out every day of your life with the highest quality and comfort they can provide.

Please consider joining us at our November Senior Empowerment Series, Hospice: What Does Hospice Really Mean? This is an open discussion about what hospice “is” and what it “is not” and the benefits of comfort care. Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 10 to 11:00 AM at the GolderCare Solutions Education Room, 1900 State Street, Bettendorf (across from Waterfront Convention Center next to Hardees).

Diana Spranger is a registered nurse with over 30 years of long-term care experience. She works part-time for GolderCare Solutions. She is an avid reader and has a passion to continue to learn new concepts and ideas daily. You can reach GolderCare Solutions Unlimited, LLC at (309) 764-2273 or www.goldercare.com.

Jamie Long is the owner of GolderCare Solutions. You can reach Jamie at GolderCare Solutions Unlimited, LLC (309) 764-2273.

Filed Under: Health & Wellness