What to Expect While Receiving Hospice Care at Home
Hospice care is end-of-life care, when the care intentions move from cure to comfort and when your life expectancy is 6 months or less. It can be a scary time: the end is most likely very near, but receiving hospice care has many benefits and can help you live the end of your life with dignity. Hospice care provides the support you and your family need because it is a time where your family may need just as much help and support as you do.
How to Start Receiving Hospice Care at Home
In order to start receiving hospice care, your doctor needs to make a referral or request that you are in need of hospice care. You must be terminally ill and other options for care have been exhausted, and there is no longer a chance for a cure. You may have stopped responding to treatments. Your illness can be from cancer, or heart failure, or a stroke: anything that has resulted in your life expectancy being shortened. There is not much left to do except make your last days as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
Just because you have a life expectancy of 6 months or less does not mean that you can only receive 6 months of in-home hospice care. You receive, through Medicare, two 90-day benefit periods and then unlimited 60-day benefit periods where you must be recertified, at the beginning of each month. There is also the option to stop hospice care if you have improved or your illness has gone into remission. A signed and dated form is necessary and should be completed when you wish the care to stop. You may also begin hospice care again if it becomes necessary at a later date.
Beginning with Hospice Care
When the hospice program has been contacted, a representative usually tries to visit within 24-48 hours, but less if the situation warrants it. Arrangements can also be made ahead of time, so you know what to expect whenever it is needed. At that point, a meeting will be held to determine the plan of care for both you and your family. The plan of care includes everything from how often the nurse visits, instructions from your doctor, scheduling volunteer and social worker visits, determining what therapies you need, and whoever else may be part of your hospice care team. Typically a care team includes your family members, doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, therapists, hospice aides, homemakers, volunteers, and clergy members if desired.
Your Care Team
Your family members are often your primary care provider, but they are trained and taught what they should be doing by the care team. They are also the ones that have many of the responsibilities associated with hospice care. Schedules need to be coordinated, arrangements must be made, and quite often your loved ones need to make sacrifices to help take care of you. The good thing is that the hospice team is there to provide assistance and help make many of the decisions. This is why it is important to choose the best hospice care for your senior and their family. If any questions of problems arise, nurses are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and social workers and clergy members are often available as well.
Providing for More than Medical Needs
The care team is there to help with more than just your medical needs and are also there to counsel you and your family through this time. Both social workers and counselors are available that can assist with understanding what is happening and any sort of process that needs to take place. Volunteers are also a huge help. They can help with almost anything that your family needs to maintain your comfort level. This can include things such as cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, or sitting with you if your loved ones need a little time to themselves.
Hospice also provides respite care if your loved ones need a little time off. As mentioned above, it can be a very overwhelming time. Being a caretaker can be very taxing on both the body and mind leading to caregiver burnout. If they need a day or weekend away, arrangements can be made for you to be taken care of by someone else, or even moved to a hospital or nursing home for the time if absolutely necessary. Because someone is always available to help or answer questions, trips to the hospital usually aren’t necessary because they are on call and can help with whatever problems may arise.
As your health declines, your hospice care plan should continue to be updated, and more assistance should be provided. Your care should always be at the forefront of the care team’s intentions. The point of home hospice care is for you to be cared for in an environment that makes you comfortable and for the resources to be available to you and your family when they need them the most.