6 Things to Know About Hospice Care

If your loved one has a late-stage illness, including Alzheimer’s and Dementia, they may be asked about beginning hospice care. Hospice care provides a holistic level of care that includes medical, emotional, spiritual and grief support for both a patient and their families. The goal of hospice care is to help patients feel as comfortable as possible while they go through an incurable illness or near the end of life. This care ensures that families and their loved ones can spend time together to share memories and express end-of-life wishes. If your loved one is considering starting hospice care, here are some things to know.

1. Begin conversations about hospice care early.

It’s never easy to discuss end-of-life care. Talking to your loved one about hospice early can reduce stress when the time comes to begin care. With early and educated conversations, patients and their families will be able to make the right decisions.

2. There are several signs that show it may be time to learn about hospice care.

If a loved one’s conditions are weakening quickly or their illness or cancer is progressing quickly, it may be time to think about beginning hospice care. Other signs include: frequent hospitalizations and/or infections, weight loss, becoming less alert, shortness of breath and inability to perform tasks part of daily life. Each patient will show different signs that it may be time to talk about hospice with a doctor. A referral for hospice care can be made by a doctor if a patient has a terminal illness and has 6 months or less in life expectancy. A hospice care team will work with your loved one to alleviate symptoms and pain through medication. The care team’s goal is to make your loved one comfortable – not sedate them.

3. Hospice care can happen at home or at a medical facility.

Hospice services can take place anywhere a patient is most comfortable. Locations of care could include a nursing home, a hospital, an assisted living facility, the patient’s home or a long-term care center managed by a Hospice organization. Hospice nurses, social workers or chaplains are available to help a patient on-call 24/7.

4. Hospice care is for people of any age or illness.

Hospice care is not just for older patients discontinuing treatment for cancer. Patients of all ages with terminal illnesses including, HIV, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS, kidney failure, heart, lung, liver and neurological diseases can all benefit from hospice care at the end of life. Treatment can be specialized and tailored to each patient’s needs.

5. Families of loved ones receiving hospice care benefit from the care too.

Families can greatly benefit from hospice treatment. Providers can step in to alleviate some of the family’s stress and burnout from caregiving and provide advice and support. When a loved one passes, hospice care continues with grief support for the family.

6. Medicare and Medicaid can be used to pay for hospice care.

Once a referral is made by a physician, hospice care is covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Private insurance policies can also help with paying for hospice. Medicare does not cover room and board costs for care that takes place at a medical facility or nursing home.

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