What is hospice end of life care?

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Answered by: Zara, An Expert in the Hospice Basics Category
Hospice end of life care is a specific set of services for people who are near the end of their life. The goal of hospice is to provide people with the care to allow them to die pain-free and with dignity. Hospice care focuses on symptom management and pain management rather than on curative treatment. The hospice care model involves a team approach including medical and nursing care, as well as spiritual and emotional support for the family.

Hospice end of life care is generally provided in the patient's home. Many people prefer to die at home surrounded by loved ones, instead of in the hospital. Hospice is a way to support that goal. If the family is unable to take care of their loved one in the home, hospice care may take place in a nursing home, hospice center or hospital. Hospice services are covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance, although care facilities may not be covered.

Hospice care is started when a healthcare provider makes a referral for a patient. Generally, the provider expects that the person is in their last 6 months of life. Sometimes hospice care is not started until days before a person dies. Once you go on hospice, you may go off of hospice, if you decide you want to receive further treatment. Some people go on hospice and end up living much longer than was expected. Sometimes people do not start hospice care until the last days of their life. Hospice care can provide much greater support when it is started earlier.

The hospice care team consists of a person's own healthcare provider, the hospice physician, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy, volunteers and others. The majority of care to the patient is provided by the family at home or by a care facility if that is where a person is living. The doctors or health care providers give medication orders to keep the person free from pain, nausea and other complaints, like breathing difficulty. Hospice nurses check in daily or weekly to assess how the patients are doing and if they need changes to their orders or care. Hospice nurses are also on call 24/7 to answer any questions or to come check on the patient. Social workers assist with getting needed supplies and resources for the patient, such as a hospital bed or financial assistance. Clergy and counselors are available to provide support to terminally ill individuals and their families. Bereavement support for families continues even after a loved one's death. Volunteers are available to spend time with the patient: listening to their history, helping them with bucket list tasks, or just sitting and being present.

Death and end-of-life is never easy. With supportive hospice care, it does not have to be something that we fear. There are friendly faces ready to answer your questions, soothe your fears, ease your pain and take excellent care of you or your loved one. Hospice care does not hasten death, it only makes the experience more comfortable, less painful and less traumatic.

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