Is Hospice Only for the Dying?
“Is hospice only for the dying?”
Most people would answer yes to this question. In fact, many patients are admitted to hospice care with only a few hours or days left.
These patients are actively dying – and their families are often surprised to learn that their loved one was eligible for all of the care and support that the Medicare hospice benefit provides much earlier.
Patients are eligible to receive hospice services if they meet hospice criteria and have been diagnosed with six months or less to live if their disease runs the typical course. That is six months of pain management. Six months without late-night runs to the emergency room. Six months of having symptoms managed in the patient’s place of residence.
This type of support can be a godsend to patients and their families.
Who is eligible for hospice?
In order to be eligible for hospice, a patient must be diagnosed with a terminal illness. This occurs when treatment is no longer effective or when a patient has decided they want to focus on quality of life over aggressive treatment plans.
Some of the things a physician will look for when making this determination are:
- A pattern of frequent hospitalizations in the past six months
- Increasing weakness, fatigue, and weight loss
- Recurring infections or skin breakdown
- Changes in cognitive and functional abilities
- Decline in the patient’s activities of daily living including eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, continence, transferring or walking
- Disease-specific decline
If a patient is not yet eligible for hospice care or if they are still pursuing curative treatment, they may qualify for palliative care. Palliative care partners with the patient’s physician to provide increased monitoring of the patient with home visits from a nurse practitioner and social worker.
What is the benefit of early access to hospice care?
An earlier admission to hospice care gives patients and their families the opportunity to receive the full benefit of hospice care. As soon as they are admitted to hospice care, the patient will begin to receive visits in their place of residence from a full team of hospice care professionals including a nurse, hospice aide, social worker, chaplain, and volunteers.
The support of this team helps prevent the need for hospitalizations and supplements the care family or facility staff are providing for the patient, preventing burnout and improving the patient and family’s quality of life.
This improved quality of life that a patient receives while on hospice care allows them to spend more time with the people they love and gives both the patient and their family the opportunity to express all of the things they need to say while they have this time together.
To learn more about the programs and services Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care offers to terminally ill patients, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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