Listed below are commonly asked questions and answers to Hospice and caring for people with life limiting diagnosis. If you have additional questions or would like more information – select the CONTACT option at the top of page and email your question or simply call our office to speak with someone directly.
Hospice is a philosophy of care. It treats the person rather than the disease and focuses on quality of life. It surrounds the patient and family with a team consisting of professionals who not only address physical distress, but emotional and spiritual issues as well. Hospice care is patient-centered because the needs of the patient and family drive the activities of the hospice team.
Hospice is for people who have a limited life expectancy. (Actually, we all have a limited life expectancy, so it is more specific than that.) Hospice is for patients whose condition is such that a doctor would not be surprised if the patient died within the next six months. This doesn't mean the patient is going to die in the next six months--it simply means that he or she has a condition that makes dying a realistic possibility.
Hospice patients are those with very serious medical conditions. Usually they have diseases that are life threatening and make day-to-day living very uncomfortable—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Some are in pain. Others experience difficult symptoms such as nausea, extreme fatigue, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may be caused by the disease, or they may have been caused by treatments intended to cure the disease. Often patients turn to hospice because they are anxious or depressed, or they are feeling spiritually distressed because of their medical condition. Hospice specializes in easing pain, discomfort, and distress on all levels. The care provided by hospice is often helpful for conditions such as cancer, heart disease, COPD (emphysema) and advanced dementia. Seriously ill patients who have decided that their priority is to have the best quality of life possible are the people who are best suited for hospice.
Not at all! Although your loved one's condition may have reached a point that a cure is not likely—or not likely enough to be worth the side effects of treatment—that does not mean there is nothing left to do. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her last months focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. As one man put it, "I'd rather spend my time with my children and grandchildren than waste my limited time and energy driving to the treatment center and recovering beside the toilet bowl." With the expert guidance of a nurse and case manager, as well as the assistance of bath aides, social workers, and chaplains, patients and families find they can focus on their relationships, healing old wounds and building wonderful memories together. Far from giving up, hospice helps families truly live well and support each other during a stressful, but, in the end, very natural family life passage.
You can, but oddly enough, doctors often wait for families to bring it up. This is part of the reason that people often receive hospice care so late in the process. If you think your loved one and family might benefit from the support of weekly home visits from staff who specialize in pain control and the easing of distress, ask your doctor if hospice might be something to consider now, or in the near future. If, when you are truly honest with yourself, you realize that you would not be surprised if your loved one were to die in the next six to twelve months, ask the doctor if he or she would be surprised. If the answer is anything close to "No, I would not be surprised," then maybe it's a good time to begin a discussion about hospice. If you would like more information, please feel free to call us toll-free 1-844-GHC-8888. We would be happy to talk with you or to do an informational home visit—no obligation or strings attached.
Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier, that they needed the help much sooner than they received it. Research has shown that hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives. Families who receive hospice near the very end--just a few days to a week--have been shown to have a harder time adjusting during the bereavement period than do those whose loved one receives hospice care for weeks and months before passing on. If you even think that your family and the person you care for could benefit from pain or symptom management, assistance with bathing and grooming, emotional and spiritual support, and telephone access to caregiving advice, ask your physician if hospice might be a service to consider. Experts agree that at least two to three months of care is optimal. It is better to ask sooner rather than later so you do not regret having missed the support that hospice has to offer.
If the patient has Medicare and meets hospice eligibility requirements, then the government will pay as much as 100% of the cost. In such a case, there is no deductible and no copayment. Not only are the services of the hospice staff entirely covered, but medical supplies and prescriptions relating to pain and comfort management are also covered. Individuals who do not have Medicare coverage but have coverage from private insurance should talk with their insurance company to find out about eligibility and what deductibles and copayments may apply. Medicaid provides coverage, but it varies by state.
A person may sign out of the hospice program for a variety of reasons, such as resuming aggressive curative treatment or pursuing experimental measures. Or, if a patient shows signs of recovery and no longer meets the 6 moth guideline, he or she can be discharged from hospice care and return to the program when the illness has progressed at a later time.
Hospice is not just a place – it’s a service. Hospice brings physical, emotional, and spiritual care and support to wherever our patients call home.
Hospice is not just for cancer patients. Georgia Hospice Care cares for patients with any life-limiting illness. Among the illnesses our patients have had are cardiac and respiratory diseases, renal disease, and neurological illness including Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, AIDS, Cirrhosis, and others.
Hospice is not only for those who are housebound or bedridden; most are living their day-to-day lives. Care is given where ever the patient lives; in their home, long-term care facilities, assisted living or retirement communities, rest homes and hospitals.
When patients have a legitimate need for pain medication, they do not become addicted to it. Georgia Hospice Care has the expertise to manage pain so that patients are comfortable yet alert and are able to enjoy each day to the fullest extent possible, given their medical condition.