October 1, 2019

Your Advocacy Connection

By Goldercare Solutions

Hospice: What Does Hospice Really Mean?

When the word “hospice” is mentioned, people generally think of the immediate death of the person they are discussing. The truth is that hospice is much more than dying, with more value than it is often given credit for. At GolderCare, we find many people wait too long to enlist hospice services, and they forgo many benefits they could be choosing for their loved one. In this article, we hope to highlight some benefits to hospice services in our continuing effort to provide education to seniors and their families.

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

Who is eligible for hospice? When you or your family member makes the decision to stop curative/aggressive medical treatment and focus on comfort care, you could begin to seek hospice care. 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.

How do I choose a hospice provider? There are many different hospice providers in this area, each with their own strengths and benefits. Locally, we have hospitals with hospices; we have a free-standing hospice house and numerous private hospices. 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.

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

There are many myths of hospice, here are a few clarifications:

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.

6. 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.

If you are unsure if hospice is appropriate for you or a loved-one, talk 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. The goal of hospice is that you live out every day of your life with the highest quality and comfort they can provide.

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. GolderCare is hosting two Senior Empowerment Events to provide further education on Hospice. Please consider joining us for our event: 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 6, 10 am at the GolderCare Solutions Education Room, 1900 State Street, Bettendorf
  • Wednesday, November 20, 10 am at the Moline Public Library, 3210 41st Street, Moline.

GolderCare Solutions is a team of advocates who help seniors, the disabled and their families confidently navigate the complexities of medical care, insurance, asset protection, and government benefits by providing advocacy, expertise, and education. You can reach GolderCare Solutions Unlimited, LLC at (309) 764-2273 or goldercare.com.