Hospice is the best way to provide a loved one with compassionate, comforting care at the end of life. Unfortunately, many families wait too long to use hospice care, only to regret it later. Half of all hospice patients receive hospice care for 14 days or less, while more than a third are in hospice for under a week.
Why aren’t families pursuing hospice sooner? For some, it’s a belief that choosing hospice means choosing death. For others, it’s a lack of information about what a hospice offers and how families can pay for it.
Why Hospice Doesn’t Mean Giving Up
A patient is only eligible for hospice care when his or her prognosis indicates six months or less of life. At this point, curative treatments have proven to be ineffective. Unfortunately, many families are reluctant to give up hope on finding a cure. As a result, patients can undergo further treatments and all the side effects they entail, only to end with the same result.
Hospice care eliminates unnecessary suffering by switching from curative treatment to palliative care when a patient is terminally ill. This improves the patient’s quality of life during his or her final months and allows the patient and family to receive the emotional and spiritual care they need to process the death.
Services Provided in Hospice Care
Hospice care provides a variety of services designed to support both the patient and the family, including:
- Pain management
- Skilled nursing
- Home health aides
- Medical equipment
- Social worker services
- Grief support and counseling
- Spiritual counseling
- Respite care
How to Pay for Hospice
The above services are covered by the Medicare hospice benefit, meaning finances shouldn’t be a barrier to hospice care for seniors. However, families may want additional services that aren’t covered, such as holistic therapies like massage, music therapy, and chiropractic therapy.
Medicare coverage for holistic therapies is limited — patients can receive medical care from a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.), who focuses on holistic health, but services like chiropractic aren’t covered unless deemed medically necessary. Families can pay for these services out-of-pocket or look into Medicare Advantage plans that offer wellness programs and coverage for nutritional services, both of which help provide the patient with a holistic boost.
How to Support a Loved One in the Hospice
Emotional support is key when a loved one is in a hospice. This is the time to share how much the patient means to you, bond over favorite memories, and discuss what your loved one would like to accomplish in his or her final months.
Follow your loved one’s lead when talking about their health. While some patients want to share their feelings on life and death, others just want company without the serious conversation. Whatever you do, don’t avoid visiting because you don’t know what to say. Often, simply being present is enough.
Making Final Arrangements
If you haven’t already made end-of-life arrangements, do so now. Make sure your loved one’s will is updated and locate important documents like banking and investment accounts, real estate deeds, and insurance policies.
In some cases, the patient may be unable to communicate these important details. If you’re not sure whether a life insurance policy exists or where to find other assets, try talking to other relatives, searching the house, or doing an online search to locate life insurance policies. These documents are essential for settling your loved one’s estate and paying for funeral arrangements, so you can’t afford to put this task off.
No one wants to feel like they’re giving up on a loved one’s recovery. However, when a peaceful death surrounded by family and friends is important to your loved one, entering hospice is the right decision to make. If you’re feeling conflicted about hospice care or need more information, talk to your loved one’s doctor about how hospice can benefit your family.
Image via Rawpixel