Hospice is specialized care that is offered to patients when they have a terminal condition that a physician reasonably expects to cause death within six months. While traditionally cancer is thought of as warranting hospice care, other diseases, such as Alzheimer's, COPD, and heart failure, can also qualify.
Many patients enroll in hospice because they wish to spend their remaining days in the comfort of their home. However, some hospice organizations also offer inpatient care for patients who no longer wish to stay at home. A patient can receive hospice services in the home, hospital, a nursing home, assisted living facility or a specialized hospice center.
A team provides hospice services: a physician, a nurse, a home care worker, a social worker, and a chaplain (if desired). Visiting volunteers can also be part of the team, if caregiver respite or social visits are needed. Some hospices offer special programs, such as music therapy or massage therapy. Hospice services are usually covered by insurance. If not, some hospice agencies, operating as non-profits, provide these services for free.
In order to enroll in hospice, a physician referral is needed. This can be obtained by asking your physician or by calling a hospice agency for an introductory meeting. If you would like assistance with this please contact me. Once a patient is enrolled in hospice, the team will meet with the patient - often within 24 hours of initial contact.
Hospice can provide a beautiful transition during one's final days. Unfortunately, some patients are unaware of hospice and don't learn of it until very late in their disease. Hospice support can help alleviate distressing symptoms such as pain, anxiety, shortness of breath, and anything else that causes distress during the end of life. If you or a loved one are facing a terminal illness, consider consulting with hospice as soon as possible.