We always hope the end is comfortable — for ourselves and our loved ones. But life (and death) sometimes bring circumstances beyond our understanding or control.
That’s where hospice comes in. It provides comfort and dignity to a dying person, family and friends. Death can be a painful and uncomfortable process, especially with terminal illnesses that affect so many.
Some 1.55 million Medicare beneficiaries received end-of-life care through hospice agencies in 2018, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). Nearly 51 percent of Medicare decedents that year received assistance from hospice in the end. As our generations grow older — most notably an increasing number of aging Baby Boomers — the total of likely hospice recipients only grows larger.
Let’s Discuss the Benefits of Hospice for Your Life Care Plan
As you build a strong life care plan for yourself and elders, it’s natural to ponder the benefits of hospice care. Will it be necessary? How can it help? What bad could happen without it?
The ability to provide strong pain-management medications and therapies is one of the most obvious benefits of hospice care. Hospice is authorized to provide pain-killing opioids like morphine and Dilaudid and anxiety meds Valium and Ativan, which doctors would otherwise avoid for risk of addiction.
Hospice patients are typically diagnosed with six months or less to live. The goal is to make the remaining time comfortable, without worrying about the types or quantities of medications required.
The most common terminal diagnoses requiring hospice care include cancer (29.6%), heart/circulatory diseases (17.4%) and dementia (15.6%). Terminal illnesses in their late stages typically involve extreme pain, agitation and weight loss only relieved by strong medications.
Most people choose to pass away at home, if possible. Who could blame them? It’s where family and many great memories took root. Hospice care helps to create a home atmosphere even if an elder must continue in an assisted-living home or care community.
Hospice delivers all the medical care and support necessary, wherever it may be needed, without the overwhelmingly cold and impersonal hospital atmosphere. No one enjoys doctors and nurses popping in unannounced to monitor vitals or administer treatments. Hospice care involves an intimate circle including only your chosen care partners.
Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance. Most individuals have no out-of-pocket costs associated with hospice and its services including:
- Prescription medications
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Doctor and nursing services
- Dietary counseling
- Grief counseling and respite care for both the individual and their care partners
At end of life, frequent hospital visits can cost families thousands in uncovered medical expenses. Hospice care works to ensure such visits are unnecessary. However rare, short-term inpatient care for pain and symptom management are covered under Medicare and Medicaid.
Many people nearing their final days understandably look to a higher power for comfort and understanding. It’s common, whether they expressed devout beliefs or weren’t particularly spiritual at all. They often wish to talk about paths through life including families, personal choices, jobs and the like.
Some like to know what awaits “beyond.” Others simply enjoy being close with a person of faith.
Hospice agencies make every effort to include clergy from your own religious denomination or place of worship. Hospice helps to coordinate any religious visits, services, prayers and rituals with a network of established clergy of all faiths.
Care Partner Support & Counseling
Care partners endure their own traumas while tending to a dying elder. They feel grief both before and after loss. They feel overwhelmed with the sometimes heavy burden of witnessing suffering.
Hospice agencies provide access to grief and support counseling for both the care recipient and their care partners. This often includes respite care for loved ones who need a brief break, as well as professional counseling to understand and manage powerful feelings.
Hospice: Bringing Comfort and Dignity to End of Life Care
The average enrollment in hospice is roughly 90 days. Individuals at end of life typically receive full hospice services for less than 20. A care partner team should not wait too long to have these important conversations. For the best quality care, you want enough time for the hospice agency and its staff to get to know your loved one and the needs of everyone involved.
If you need help, Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC has over 25 years of experience with all aspects of life care planning including hospice care. We’re happy to provide referrals and guide the process in a caring and compassionate way.