Frequently Asked Questions About Hospice
What is hospice?
Hospice care involves a core interdisciplinary team of professionals and volunteers who provide medical, psychological and spiritual support for the terminally ill and assistance to their families. Hospice care revolves around the importance of advocating the needs of the terminally ill. Hospice care neither hastens death nor prolongs life, but strives to make death a natural part of life.
When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made, and who should make it?
The earlier you call, the more we can do to help you. At any time during a life-limiting illness, it’s appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Understandably, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping aggressive efforts to “beat” the disease. Hospice staff members are highly sensitive to these concerns and always available to discuss them with the patient and family.
Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?
The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professional, clergy or friends.
What if our physician doesn’t know about hospice?
Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician wants more information, it is available from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, medical societies, state hospice organizations, compassion hospice or the National Hospice Helpline, 1-800-658-8898.
Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular treatment?
Certainly. If improvement in the condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about his or her daily life.
What does the hospice admission process involve?
One of the first things hospice will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for this patient at this time. (Most hospices have medical staff available to help patients who have no physician.) The patient will also be asked to sign consent forms. The hospice election form reads that the patient understands that the care is palliative (aimed at pain relief and symptom control) rather than curative. It also outlines the services available.
Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?
Your hospice provider will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment and help make arrangements to obtain it. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses.
How many family members or friends does it take to care for a patient at home?
There’s no set number. One of the first things a hospice team will do is prepare an individualized care plan that will, among other things, address the amount of care giving a patient needs. Hospice staff visits regularly and are always accessible to answer questions and provide support.
Must someone be with the patient at all times?
In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally recommends someone be there continuously. Volunteer services may be available to coordinate with family members and friends to provide additional support.
How difficult is caring for a dying loved one at home?
It’s never easy and sometimes can be quite hard. At the end of a long, progressive illness, nights especially can be very long, lonely and scary. Hospices have staff available around the clock to consult with the family and to make night visits as appropriate.
What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
A team of physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists and volunteers care for hospice patients, and each provides assistance based on his or her area of expertise. In addition, hospices help provide medications, supplies, equipment, hospital services and additional helpers in the home, as appropriate.
Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Hospices do nothing either to speed up or slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
Is the home the only place hospice care can be delivered?
No. Although most hospice services are delivered in a personal residence, some patients live in assisted living, nursing homes or hospice in-patient facilities.
How does hospice “manage pain”?
Hospice nurses and doctors are up-to-date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. Hospice’s success rate in battling pain is very high. Using some combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients can attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them. Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain is just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it addresses these as well. Counselors, including clergy, are available to assist family members as well as patients.
Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to help patients be as comfortable and alert as they desire by constantly consulting with the patient. Hospices have been very successful in reaching this goal.
Is hospice affiliated with any religious organization?
Hospice care is not an offshoot of any religion. While some religious organizations have started hospices, these hospices serve a broad community and do not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs.
Is hospice care covered by insurance?
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare, Medicaid and most private health insurance. Compassion Hospice is contracted with Medicaid, Medicare and over 40 insurance companies. We also accept TexanPlus and HealthSpring HMOs.
If the patient is not covered by Medicare or any other health insurance, will hospice still provide care?
The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for coverage they may not be aware of. Barring this, most hospices will provide for anyone who cannot pay using money raised from the community or from memorial or foundation gifts. Compassion Hospice has provided over $1 million in care to patients and their families who would otherwise be unable to afford it.
Does hospice provide help to the family after the patient dies?
Hospice provides continuing contact and support for family and friends for at least a year following the death of a loved on. Compassion hospice also sponsors bereavement and support groups for anyone in the community who has experienced the death of a family member, a friend or a loved one.
If the patient is eligible for Medicare, will there be any additional expenses to be paid?
Medicare covers all services and supplies related to the terminal illness for the hospice patient.
Do you accept donations?
Yes. Compassion Hospice is affiliated with Compassion Hospice Foundation – a not-for-profit program. No one is denied our care based on ability to pay or lack of insurance. Donations help us offset costs associated with providing care to all who need and desire it. For more information about supporting Compassion Hospice, call (409) 835-8357 and ask to be connected to the Development Department, or visit the agency website.