What is Hospice Care?

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 80 percent of elderly American people would prefer to spend their final days of life at their home surrounded by family members and loved ones, rather than in a hospital setting.

Yet, few elderly people make adequate preparations for palliative and end of life treatment. Developing a plan for a terminally ill family member’s care and support during their final days allows the patient and family to make optimal use of their remaining time together.

Hospice care is a form of palliative treatment which focuses on the physical, emotional and spiritual care of terminally ill patients with fewer than six months of life expectancy.  Due to a lack of understanding of the many benefits that hospice can provide, hospice providers often express regret that patients and families do not always access hospice benefits soon enough.

The focus of care is on making the terminal patient as comfortable as possible and providing support services for the family. End of life care for a terminally ill patient consists of a team- based approach of medical doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, bereavement counselors, clergy, trained volunteer staff and ancillary medical staff. The patient, family and medical professionals actively share in making any decisions regarding care, medical treatment and pain control. During the patient’s final days, family members engage in care giving and administering medications with support from volunteers and palliative health care professionals. Team members also facilitate the delivery of pain medications, medical equipment and provide education and training for family members in supportive, palliative patient care. In addition, care and respite services are available in various health care settings including nursing homes, the hospital and assisted living facilities. Psychological and spiritual counseling on death and bereavement are provided for the terminally ill patient and the patient’s family. Services and support are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The expenses associated with hospice care services are covered with Medicare health insurance. Whether a terminally ill elderly patient is at home or in other care settings like an assisted living facility, end of life care provides family members and terminally ill patients the support they need during the final days of life.  

Author:  Michelle Graham, CSA, Certified Senior Advisor, CIRS-A, CAP, Eldercare Consultant and Founder of Graham & Graham Eldercare Consultants LLC.

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