The Pros and Cons of Hospice Care
What it is, where to find it, what to expect, and who will pay
What is Hospice Care?
Hospice care is generally for those who have six months or less to live. Care at this stage focuses on relieving symptoms rather than curing. The goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible and to help prepare the patient and family for the patient's death.
Where Can I find Hospice Care?
Families can be referred to a hospice by a doctor or hospital, or they can find the nearest one on their own at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization web site or call National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's Help Line at 800.568.8898.
What Can I Expect From Hospice Care?
Usually hospice personnel will come to your home to do an assessment and then provide the care in your home. It mainly consists of making the patient as comfortable as possible, and also includes conversations with the patient and the family to help them have meaningful and sustaining final interactions. Personnel include a team of social workers, therapists, clergy and volunteers, in addition to nurses and doctors.
Will I Be Able to Provide the Care My Loved One Needs At Home?
Hospice workers can train you to provide the care needed.
How Difficult Will the Final Six Months Be?
They can be increasingly difficult depending upon your loved one's illness. People handle the end stages of illness in different ways. It is usually necessary not to leave the patients alone as they become increasingly sick or weakened. Be aware that as their health deteriorates, they may experience changes in their mental status. Hospice can help you through this process, which can be just as difficult for the caregivers as it is for the person who is ill.
Most insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid cover the costs of hospice care.
Will I Need Special Equipment?
The hospice representative will assess what equipment is needed and help you arrange to get it. Much of the cost is covered by insurance.
Does Hospice Care End When My Loved One Dies?
Most hospices sponsor bereavement groups for family and friends and many periodically call family of the deceased to see how they are doing.
Pros of Hospice
- Most patients prefer to die at home, without unnecessary interventions, and hospice care grants them this wish.
- Hospice care usually succeeds in keeping patients pain free.
- Acknowledging that the end of life is approaching gives family members and the patient an opportunity to come to terms with the death and to address unresolved emotional issues. Hospice workers are trained to facilitate this psychological process.
Cons of Hospice
- The patient and family must acknowledge that the patient is dying, with less than six months to live.
- Care now focuses on relieving symptoms rather than producing a cure.
- Providing the care for your loved one can be emotionally difficult and exhausting, and may require you to give up other activities during this time period.
You need to decide if hospice care is right for you.
More Senior Care Services
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Ronnie Friedland is an editor at Care.com. She has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.
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