Hospice is a comprehensive program of care for terminally ill patients and their loved ones. Hospice emphasizes palliative rather than curative treatment; quality rather than quantity of life.
Comfort and professional medical care are given, and sophisticated symptom relief is provided. The patient and family are included in the care plan, and medical, social, emotional and spiritual support is given based on the patient’s wishes and family’s needs. Trained volunteers can offer respite care for the family members as well as meaningful support to the patient.
The goals of hospice care are to:
- Prevent needless suffering
- Provide good quality of life
- Help people cope and prepare for death
Hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice provides personalized services and a caring community so that patients and families can attain the necessary preparation for a desirable death.
Who can receive hospice care, and where is it given?
Hospice care is provided to patients who have a limited life expectancy—typically six months or less. Hospices accept anyone regardless of age or type of illness. Hospice care is given wherever the patient resides, often at home. It may be in a nursing home, a long-term care facility, a hospice residence or even a hospital. The patient may move between home and a facility as needs and wishes change.
What does hospice include?
Doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual counsellors, home health aides, massage therapists, grief counselors and trained volunteers work as a closely knit team to provide care as needed. Hospice provides the medicines, supplies and equipment needed for the individual’s comfort. Hospice does not provide 24-hour personal care. Respite care is available, and hospice provides grief support for family members for at least 13 months after their loved one dies. The sooner after a terminal diagnosis that a patient and family enroll in the hospice program, the greater the benefit.
Who pays for hospice?
Hospice care is covered by most insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, most private insurers and most HMOs. Hospice is a covered benefit under Medicare for people who have a life expectancy of six months or less. Most policies cover all costs of hospice care, although some may require a co-pay for prescriptions. Most insurance companies do not cover room-and-board charges at a nursing home or hospice facility when on hospice care; this is the family’s responsibility.
The Hospice Team
The hospice medical director consults and stays in touch with the patient’s personal physician to coordinate medical needs. The medical director is available to answer questions the patients or their loved ones may have regarding their hospice medical care.
The hospice nurse makes regularly scheduled visits to the patient, providing expert pain management and symptom control techniques. The nurse keeps the primary physician informed of the patient’s condition and educates the family on how to care for the patient. Nurses supply the complete spectrum of skilled nursing care and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The social worker provides assistance with practical financial concerns as well as emotional support, counselling and bereavement follow-up. The social worker evaluates the need for volunteers and other support services for the family.
Volunteer chaplains provide spiritual support to patients and families. Chaplains often know various denominations and support patients and their families with their own spiritual needs. Chaplains can assist with memorial services and funeral arrangements.
Home health aides provide assistance with the patients’ personal care.
Volunteers serve the hospice team by sharing skills and interests in a manner that offers comfort and enriches the quality of life for those served. Volunteers regularly provide companionship, letter writing, reading, and assistance with errands and home-making tasks. In addition, volunteers offer bereavement support to family members after the death of a loved one. The most important thing a volunteer does is “be there” with patients to reassure them that they are not alone, to hold their hand, offer a smile or just to listen. With hospice training class just completed, new volunteers will be ready to serve soon.
Local Hospice Provider for Whitman County
1610 NE Eastgate Blvd, Suite 610
Pullman, WA 99163
Manager of Clinical Practice