Q: When should a choice about entering a hospice program be made, and who should make it?
A: Under Medicare guidelines, hospice care is available to patients who the doctor believes are likely to die within 6 months if the patient continues to follow the natural disease progression. By law, the decision to enter hospice belongs to the patients. While most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping aggressive efforts to beat an illness that will limit their life, that’s exactly when you want to discuss all care options, including hospice. Hospice with Grace staff members are sensitive to patients’ reluctance to move into hospice and are always available to discuss concerns with the patient and family.
Q: Should I wait for our physician to mention the possibility of hospice, or should I mention it first?
A: The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other health care professionals, clergy or friends.
Q: Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?
A: If the patient’s condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about their daily life. If the discharged patient needs to return to hospice care later, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage to do so.
Q: What does the hospice admission process involve?
A: With just a physician’s signature, your loved one can be admitted within an hour. The patient will be asked to sign consents and appropriate admission paperwork. These are similar to the forms patients sign when they enter a hospital.
The “Hospice Election Form” states that the patient understands that the care is palliative (aimed at pain relief and symptom control) rather than curative, and it outlines the services available. The form Medicare patients sign also explains how electing the Medicare hospice benefit affects other Medicare coverage.
Q: Do I need any special equipment or to make changes in my home before hospice care begins?
A: Hospice with Grace will assess your needs, recommend any equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain necessary equipment. Often, the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses. We’ll assist in any way we can to make home care convenient, clean, and safe.
Q: How many family members or friends are necessary to care for a patient at home?
A: There is no set number. One of the first things our hospice team will do is prepare an individualized care plan that, among other things, will address the amount of caregiving needed by the patient. Our staff visits regularly and is always accessible to answer medical questions, provide support, and teach caregivers. Hospice nurses are available 24/7 to assist with patient care needs.
Q: Does someone have to be with the patient at all times?
A: In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. However, as the illness progresses and the patient’s condition worsens, we generally recommend someone be there continuously. And one of the most common fears among hospice patients is the fear of dying alone.
Q: How difficult is it to care for a dying loved one at home?
A: It’s never easy – and sometimes it can be quite hard. At the end of a lengthy, progressive illness, nights especially can be long, lonely and scary. Our staff is available around the clock to consult by phone with the family and make night visits if appropriate. Respite care can be arranged to give family members a break. Arrangements can also be made for in-patient, nursing home or assisted living placement, if needed.
Q: What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
A: Hospice patients are cared for by a team of physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors, hospice certified nursing assistants, clergy, therapists, and volunteers. Each provides assistance based on his or her own area of expertise. Hospices also provide medications, supplies, equipment, and hospital services related to the terminal illness and additional helpers in the home, if and when needed.
Q: Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
A: Hospice neither hastens nor postpones dying. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the process of child birth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
Q: How does Hospice with Grace manage pain?
A: Hospice with Grace believes emotional and spiritual pain are just as real as physical pain, so we address those, too. Our nurses and doctors are up-to-date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. Physical and occupational therapists can help patients remain as mobile and self-sufficient as possible, and they are often joined by specialists schooled in music therapy, art therapy, massage and diet counseling. Various counselors, including clergy, are available to assist family members and patients.
Q What is hospices’ success rate in battling pain?
A: Very high. Using various combinations of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them.
Q: Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
A: Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to have the patient as pain-free and alert as possible. By constantly consulting with the patient, hospices have been successful in reaching this goal.
Q: Is hospice affiliated with any religious organization?
A: Hospice with Grace is not affiliated with any religious organization. While some churches and religious groups have started hospices, these hospices serve a broad community and do not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs.
Q: How much will hospice care cost?
A: Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, by Medicaid in 39 states – including Texas – and by most private insurance providers. To be sure of coverage, families should check with their employer or health insurance provider.
• Medicare covers all services and supplies for the hospice patient related to the terminal illness. In some cases, the patient may be required to pay a 5% or $5 “co-payment” on medication and a 5% co-payment for respite care. You should find out about any co-payment when selecting a hospice.
Q: Does Hospice with Grace provide any help to the family after the patient dies?
A: We provide continuing contact and support for caregivers for at least a year following the death of a loved one. Like most hospices, we also sponsor bereavement groups and support for anyone in the community who has experienced a death of a family member, a friend, or similar losses.
Q. Why should you choose Hospice with Grace?
• Your loved one comes first – always.
• Our C.A.R.E. (Compassionate Associates Reflect Excellence) program outlines an overall philosophy of ethical, compassionate care by every staff member.
• Hospice nurses available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist with patient care needs.
• Patients are admitted within 1 hour of a physician order.
• We act as the advocate, hope-bearer, comforter, and faithful companion for our patients.