Kelly Wolf: I'm here to explain what hospice care is and the benefits it provides to patients and their families. There is nothing more emotional than facing one's own death or watching the final stages in the declining health of a loved one.
There is nothing more profound or more frightening, especially since life-threatening situations cause instinctive fight or flight reactions. That's why it's so difficult to talk about and plan for it and that's why hospice care exists.
Most people know that hospice is end-of-life care. It provides compassionate care for people facing a terminal illness including expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support for the patient and a patient's loved ones. It focuses on caring, not curing and is usually provided in the patient's home, but may also be provided in a facility.
What many people do not realize is that hospice does not mean that someone has given up on life. In fact, about 15% of hospice patients actually recover enough of their health to be discharged from the program or decide to resume curative treatments.
The patient's needs and wishes control the process. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans. However, patients receive hospice care regardless of ability to pay. For a hospice agency to provide care, a physician must certify that a patient is likely to die within six months.
When pain and symptoms are better managed usually within the comfort of their homes, they sometimes live much longer than expected. Many people also do not realize that hospice care involves an entire team of healthcare professionals, social workers, spiritual and bereavement counselors and volunteers. Hospice staff is on-call around the clock.
By focusing on pain, relief, and comfort the patient is able to spend better quality time with loved ones and is able to arrange his or her affairs. This may include an advanced directive on the kind of medical treatment to receive if the patient is unable to make those decisions to avoid confusion and additional stress for the family.
Life's final season is a precious one. The special people who provide hospice care give loving support through every precious moment.