All About Hospice Care

Hospice care is specialized care for terminally ill patients. It’s all encompassing care that looks out for the patient and his or her loved ones. When a patient is dying, both he and his family need support and care. That’s where the hospice team comes in. With doctors, nurses, clergy, and volunteers, they work together to make their patient’s last days as comfortable and uplifting as possible.

The ideology behind hospice care lies in the belief that everyone deserves peace, comfort, and dignity—especially in the last days of their life.

Here are the frequently asked questions we get about hospice care, answered:

Who is hospice care for?

Hospice patients have a wide range of diagnoses. These include but are not limited to:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • dementia
  • ALS
  • lung disease
  • kidney disease

Is hospice a facility?

Not necessarily. A person with a terminal illness can receive hospice care at their home or the home of a family member. If the patient hasn’t been living at home, they can receive hospice at their facility. At Bridgeway of Bensenville, our hospice residents receive the usual superlative care from our skilled nursing staff, and also get the specialized services of the hospice support team. In most cases where a patient is receiving hospice care at a facility, the hospice organization and the nursing home will have a written agreement in place.

Does going on hospice mean stopping all medications?

Not necessarily. When a patient goes on hospice, it usually means they have stopped any life-prolonging treatment, and their remaining lifespan can be measured in months instead of years. However, hospice does not take any measures to hasten death. The idea of hospice is that life is something to be cherished and celebrated in dignity. If a medication serves no purpose in keeping the patient comfortable and alert, he and his hospice team may decide to discontinue it.

What does hospice provide?

The hospice team cares for patients and their families by providing all their medical, emotional, and spiritual needs. They’re there for comfort, pain management, and company. They also dispense medications, provide supplies and equipment, and extra help if the patient is at home.

What does pain management entail on hospice?

Hospice medical teams are well-versed in the latest devices and medications for pain relief. This can include painkillers, targeted heat wraps, and various pain relief techniques. Sometimes the patient on hospice will have a physical or occupational therapist assist them with mobility and self-sufficiency.

In addition, part of hospice ideology is that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real as physical pain. Counselors, clergy-people, and other spiritual and emotional caregivers are always available to soothe the patient and family.

Do I need to make any changes in my home before hospice begins?

That will depend on your home setup, and whether your loved one had any home care before hospice. Your hospice caseworker will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment or adjustments, and help you arrange it. Many times, the patient’s needs will change and/or increase as time goes on.

Does insurance cover hospice care?

Medicare covers hospice care completely, even when the patient has been on Medicare Advantage. Medicaid also covers hospice in Illinois and most other states. Many, if not most, private health insurers also partially or fully pay for hospice. If you’re ever unsure of coverage, check with your insurance provider. You should also find out if there are any expenses not covered by insurance, such as copayments or other cost-sharing.

Who should make the decision to go on hospice, and when should they make it?

It’s always appropriate to discuss your terminally ill loved one’s care options.  The decision ultimately belongs to the patient, but family members and other caregivers are also an important part of the decision-making process.

Is palliative care the same thing as hospice care?

Palliative care and hospice care have a lot of overlap, but they’re not the same thing. Palliative care is a medical specialty that focuses on relieving the physical and emotional impact of serious illness. It’s often provided in conjunction with intense medical treatments. Hospice, on the other hand, usually calls for the cessation of such treatments. Hospice focuses on quality of life in a person’s last days and months, while palliative care’s main goal is to ease the patient’s discomfort while they undergo treatment.

How do I choose a hospice?

Asking questions from your potential provider is the most effective way to get a feel for the organization. At Bridgeway of Bensenville we welcome your questions. Feel free to contact us here.