Death is a normal life process. Hospice is a special way of caring for people in the final stages of life. The goal of hospice is to provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support to terminally ill persons and their families. Hospice care is a physician-directed, nurse-coordinated interdisciplinary team approach to patient and family care available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made—and who should make it?
At any time during a life-limiting illness, it’s appropriate to discuss all of the patient’s care options, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Understandably, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping an all-out effort to “beat” their disease. Hospice staff members are highly sensitive to these concerns and are always available to discuss them with the patient, family and physician.
Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?
The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professionals, clergy, or friends. Individuals may also call Avera Sacred Heart Hospice for information.
What if your physician doesn’t know about hospice?
Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician wants more information, it is available by calling Avera Sacred Heart Hospice at 605 668-8309.
Is hospice only for cancer patients?
No. Anyone whose illness is known to be life-limiting and has six months or less to live is eligible for hospice care. Many hospice patients have a non-cancer diagnosis such as end-stage heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, renal failure, and senile dementia to name a few.
What specific assistance does hospice provide patients?
Hospice patients are cared for by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, personal care aides, clergy, therapists, and volunteers—and each provides assistance based on his or her area of expertise. In addition, Hospice helps provide medications, supplies, equipment, therapies, and hospital services as appropriate.
When does a patient start receiving hospice care?
One of the first things hospice will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for this patient at this time. The patient will also be asked to sign consent and insurance forms. These are similar to the forms patients sign when they enter a hospital. The hospice election form says that the patient understands that the care is palliative (that is, aimed at pain relief and symptom control) rather than aimed at seeking a cure. It also outlines the services available.
The form Medicare patients sign also tells how electing the Medicare hospice benefit affects other Medicare coverage for a terminal illness.
Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?
Hospice staff will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain it. In general Avera Sacred Heart Hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient, clean, and safe as possible.
Is the home the only place hospice care can be delivered?
No. Although most hospice services are delivered in a personal residence, many patients live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
How may family members or friends does it take to care for a patient at home?
There’s no set number. One of the first things our hospice team will do is prepare an individualized care plan that will, among other things, address the amount of caregiving a patient needs. Hospice staff visit regularly and are always accessible to answer questions and provide support.
Must someone be with the patient at all times?
It depends. Many patients, especially if they are receiving hospice care early in their illness, are able to be left alone. Since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, we generally recommend that later on someone be there continuously.
While family and friends must be relied on to give most of the care, Hospice can provide volunteers to provide a break and time away for major caregivers.
How difficult is caring for a dying loved one at home?
It’s never easy and sometimes can be quite hard. At the end of a long, progressive illness, nights especially can be very long, lonely and scary. Hospice staff is available around the clock to help family members problem solve and to visit should an emergency arise.
Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Hospices do nothing either to speed up or to slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of child birth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?
Certainly. If improvement in the condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy.
How does hospice manage pain?
Hospice nurses and doctors are up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. In addition, physical and occupational therapists may be available to assist patients to be as mobile and self-sufficient as possible. They can be joined by others schooled in speech, dietary, and massage therapies.
Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it addresses these, as well.
What is hospice’s success rate in battling pain?
Very high. Using some combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients can attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them.
Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to help patients be as comfortable and alert as they desire. By constantly consulting with the patient, hospices have been very successful in reaching the goal.
Is hospice affiliated with any religious organization?
Hospice care is not an off-shoot of any religion. While some religious organizations have started hospices (sometimes in connection with their hospitals), these hospices serve a broad community and do not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs.
How is hospice care paid for?
When a patient chooses hospice, payment for 100% of prescription and nonprescription drugs related to management of the terminal disease is covered under Medicare. Many insurance policies include hospice coverage for all or a portion of related costs.
Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?
Hospice provides continuing contact and support for family and friends up to a year following the death of a loved one through such services as personal contacts, phone visits, self-help literature, and support groups.
What is LifeCircle South Dakota?
LifeCircle South Dakota is an organization formed to help improve care at the end of life for the people of South Dakota.