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Letters to the Editor

Hospice care is special

From Nikki Walker, RN

Care Initiatives Hospice – Greenfield

This November is National Hospice Palliative Care Month. I’d like to share some information about what makes hospice so special.

Hospice isn’t a place. It’s a type of patient-centered care that focuses on living – living as fully as possible, up until the end of life. Hospice brings comfort, love and respect to the patients and families they care for. 

Considered to be the model for high-quality, compassionate care at the end of life, hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to care that includes expert medical care, pain-and-symptom management and emotional and spiritual support. All care is expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.

Hospice offers the services and support most of us want when coping with a serious or life-limiting illness.

The goal of this type of care is to treat the person instead of the disease, and focus on the family caregivers, not just the individual. The quality of life is emphasized, not its duration. 

Here are a few facts about hospice that may surprise you.

Hospice usage in the U.S. is growing. Every year, more than 1.65 million Americans with life-limiting illness are cared for by the nation’s 5,100 hospice providers.

The median length of service for hospice patients is 19.1 days (half of patients receive care for more days, half of patients receive care for fewer days). Yet, more than 35 percent of patients die or are discharged in seven days or less – too short a time to benefit from the full ranges of services a hospice can offer.

Cancer accounts for less than 38 percent of hospice patients – which surprises many people who mistakenly think hospice only serves cancer patients. The five other leading diagnoses are heart disease, debility, dementia (this includes Alzheimer’s disease), lung disease and stroke.

Hospice is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed care organizations.

Research shows eight out of 10 Americans would want to stay in their homes surrounded by family and loved ones if they were faced with a life-limiting illness. Hospice makes this happen.

Patients and families have a choice of providers when it comes to hospice care. We encourage families to interview hospice agencies and ask how responsive they are when called for assistance, including weekend and evening assistance. Ask if they are a for-profit or nonprofit organization. No matter which hospice service you choose, we highly encourage you to take advantage of the hospice benefit if you or your loved one qualifies for hospice service. 

The one comment we consistently hear from families is, “We wish we had called you sooner!”

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