Monday, April 30, 2012

Hospice Care Guide - Questions & Answers - Part Three

Pathways will be sharing the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding hospice care beginning this week. 

Can we go to the hospital?     

Yes.  You can always go to the hospital.  Hospice asks that you call them first.  They may be able to manage your crisis at home.  If not, they can arrange transportation to the hospital.  There are times that the hospice may ask you to go to the hospital for a short stay if there is a problem that can be managed better there.

My loved one lives in a nursing home.  What can hospice do that they can’t?    

Nursing homes are experts in long-term care.  Hospice nurses are experts in symptom management and end-of-life care.  Hospice nurses are best equipped to deal quickly with health problems that arise.  Other benefits of hospice include more frequent personal care, volunteer visitors, paid medications and supplies, and bereavement follow-up for family members.

When should we think about getting hospice help?     

You can let your doctor know that you would like hospice care if it becomes appropriate.  You are entitled to at least six months of care, but some doctors hesitate to talk about hospice for fear you will think they are “giving up.”  Hospice is not giving up.  Just like you, we hope you do well.  Hospice is a way to be sure of the best care, no matter how things turn out. 

Is hospice linked to a religion?     

No.  Hospice care is only related to health insurance.  Because of the special nature of hospice care, we do make spiritual care counselors available to patients and families.  They can also help to link you to someone in your own faith community.

Who decides whether we get hospice?     

You do.  Your doctor authorizes care, but you decide if you want this care or not.  Sometimes the doctor calls hospice and asks us to contact you about hospice.  Some families call hospice and have us contact the doctor to ask for authorization.  Pathways will send someone, free of charge, to make an information visit if you need this.

Who makes our health care decisions when we are on hospice?      

You and your doctor are always in control of your care.  Hospice will make suggestions about your care, but you will always be in control.

What happens if my loved one is still alive at the end of six months?      

Hospice must periodically recertify that the patient has a prognosis of six months or less.  If at each of these dates it appears that the patient has six months or less to live, then the patient can stay on hospice.  If the course of the disease is slow, some people may be on longer than six months. 

Can we stop hospice care?

Yes.  Any patient can go off hospice at any time.  You can also come back on hospice if circumstances change.

What if the patient’s health improves? 

Sometimes with the extra care from hospice a patient’s health improves.  They may start eating more and be more active.  If they improve to the point that it looks like they will live more than six months, we will discontinue hospice care.  The patient can return to hospice in the future when needed.

What does hospice do for us after my loved one dies?  

A large part of hospice care is bereavement support for families and friends.  Pathways provides phone calls, newsletters, counseling, support groups, and remembrance events for families after a death.

Download a complete set of the questions and answers that we covered in this blog series by clicking here.

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