The Benefits Of Hospice

Hospice is a specific type of care for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have fewer than six months to live.  It addresses the social, emotional and spiritual needs of patients, as well as their physical needs, and it includes family caregivers in the treatment plan.  When patients choose hospice care, they are not “giving up,” but taking advantage of the full range of services available to them.

The goal of hospice is to help people live as fully and comfortably as possible during their final days.  Hospice patients often say they wish they would have started services sooner because of all the support they receive.  Perhaps this is why hospice patients, on average, live 29 days longer than people with the same diagnosis who didn’t choose hospice.

When given a terminal diagnosis, most people ask lots of questions. How much does it cost? What services are provided? Does it mean I’m going to die soon? I will try to answer some of these questions here.

First of all, hospice is paid for 100% by Medicare and also by several commercial health insurance companies.  Besides providing a care team, hospice supplies medical equipment like hospital beds, oxygen, bedside commodes, wheelchairs, and walkers. It also pays for medications related to the patient’s prognosis and all incontinent supplies, like wipes and pull-ups.

The care itself is provided by a team of professionals:  a Medical Director, a Registered Nurse Case Manager, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a Social Worker, a Chaplain, one or more Volunteers, Complementary Therapy Professionals, and a Bereavement Coordinator.  Each person has a different role to play in the patient’s care.  While care is available 24/7, it is provided intermittently; that is, hospice professionals are not in the patient’s home all the time.

Management of the team is provided by the Medical Director, with assistance from the Case Manager.  Both provide hands-on care.  The Director, who is a physician, helps advise the Case Manager on the care plan and also makes house calls if needed.  The Case Manager typically makes two to three visits a week, primarily to address the physical needs of the patient, with each visit lasting about an hour.  The Case Manager advises the rest of the team in providing the best care for the patient.

The CNA makes two to three visits a week to provide personal care, including bathing, dressing, feeding, companionship, and sometimes light housekeeping.  Each visit lasts about an hour.

The Social Worker assists with the social and emotional needs of the patient and typically makes one visit a month or one visit every other week but can provide weekly visits if needed.  The Social Worker is there to learn more about the patient’s life to share with the team, so they can provide more personalized care. The Social Worker also helps find additional resources as needed, such as home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes, and assists with living wills and Physician Order Scope of Treatment (POST).

The rest of the team provides a range of services to the patient and family members, as desired. The Chaplain typically makes one visit a month or one every other week but can also come weekly, if requested, to provide spiritual and emotional support.  Volunteers provide respite for caregivers in the home by spending time with the patient, offering companionship, playing cards, reading books, playing musical instruments, watching movies, or whatever the patient wants.  Volunteers can come weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month.  The Complementary Therapy Professionals include massage therapists, acupuncturists, aromatherapists, music therapists, and pet therapists. One or more can come weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month, as the patient desires. The Bereavement Coordinator visits with family members before the patient’s passing and provides continued support for up to 13 months after the death of their loved one.

All of these professionals can fluctuate on the number of visits they make, depending on the needs and wishes of the patient and family.

If you have more questions, feel free to call Mike Briggs at 208-996-4000 or email mbriggs@keystonehospice.org.

To learn more, review Mike’s video on hospice at: CLICK HERE.

Written by: Mike Briggs

Mike is an Idaho native. He has been working in healthcare since March of 2004.  He loves to provide solutions to patients and families that need help in the community he loves.  Mike is extremely passionate about hospice care and enjoys helping people understand why its such a great benefit.  Mike has been married to his lovely bride for 26 years and has 4 beautiful children.  Mike loves to coach wrestling which he has done for 31 seasons. He loves to go camping, hunting, fishing, paddle boarding, workout, volleyball, and anything with his family.