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How Does Hospice Work (part 2)

Frank Lamb

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How Does Hospice Work?

Hospice care is for any person who has a life-threatening or terminal illness. Most reimbursement sources require a prognosis of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course. Patients with both cancer and non-cancer illnesses are eligible to receive hospice care. All hospices consider the patient and family together as the unit of care.

The majority of hospice patients are cared for in their own homes or the homes of a loved one. “Home” may also be broadly construed to include services provided in nursing homes, hospitals and prisons.

Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Who is the Hospice Team?

Hospice care is a family-centered approach that includes, at a minimum, a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, and trained volunteers. They work together focusing on the dying patient’s needs; physical, psychological, or spiritual. The goal is to help keep the patient as pain-free as possible, with loved ones nearby until death. The hospice team develops a care plan that meets each patient's individual needs for pain management and symptom control.

It is important to find out what the role of the patient's primary doctor will be once the patient begins receiving hospice care. Most often, hospice patients can choose to have their personal doctor involved in the medical care. Both the patient's physician and the hospice medical director may work together to coordinate the patient's medical care, especially when symptoms are difficult to manage. Regardless, a physician's involvement is important to ensure quality hospice care. The hospice medical director is also available to answer questions you or the patient may have regarding hospice medical care.

The team usually consists of:

The patient' s personal physician;

Hospice physician (or medical director);


Home health aides;

Social workers;

Clergy or other counselors;

Trained volunteers; and

Speech, physical, and occupational therapists, if needed.

What Services Does the Hospice Team Provide?

Among its major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team:

Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms;

Assists the patient with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying;

Provides needed medications, medical supplies, and equipment;

Coaches the family on how to care for the patient;

Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed;

Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time; and

Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.

In many cases, family members or loved ones are the patient's primary care givers. Additionally, hospice recognizes that loved ones have their own special needs for support. As a relationship with the hospice begins, hospice staff will want to know about the primary caregiver's priorities. They will also want to know how best to support the patient and family during this time. Support can take many different forms, including visits with the patient and family members; telephone calls to loved ones, including family members who live at a distance, about the patient' s condition; and the provision of volunteers to assist with patient and family needs.

Counseling services for the patient and loved ones are an important part of hospice care. After the patient's death, bereavement support is offered to families for at least one year. These services can take a variety of forms, including telephone calls, visits, written materials about grieving, and support groups. Individual counseling may be offered by the hospice or the hospice may make a referral to a community resource.

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Even thought I never Was given the oppurtunity to use Hospice Thank you for this info. Is nice to know. I had done a little looking into in case buut that never panned out sadly?! enough. Thanks Frank

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