Hospice relieves suffering, promotes dignity, and facilitates closure for patients and families. Surveys have found that families of people who received care through a hospice program are more satisfied with end-of-life care than those who did not have hospice services. Also, hospice recipients are more likely to have their pain controlled and less likely to undergo tests or be given medicines they don't need, compared with people who don't use hospice care.
A variety of support services are offered in addition to pain and symptom management. Support services for patients and their loved ones include: education, emotional and spiritual support, assistance with financial issues, help with the patient’s personal care and hygiene, and respite care to give family caregivers a break of up to 5 days.
Hospice and palliative care both offer relief from the pain and symptoms of a serious illness. They also address the emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. In fact, hospice is a type of palliative care for people at the final stages of life. Common diagnoses include; cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), advanced dementia, heart failure, Huntington’s disease, kidney disease, liver disease, organ failure, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, ALS/Lou Gehrig’s, advanced Multiple Sclerosis, and stroke.
Because of Medicare requirements, hospice is typically utilized by patients with a life expectancy of six months or less. A patient's doctor and a hospice medical director work together to determine life expectancy.
Palliative care is for people at any stage of illness. The illness is not required to be life-limiting. Like hospice, palliative care addresses a patient's physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.
Finding good hospice services can be confusing. To help, here are some things to ask about before picking your provider:
Services: What medical expenses will we be responsible for? Will home supplies be provided?
Protocols: “What protocols are in place for the team when a medical emergency arises?" “How will medications be managed?” “How does the transition of care happen when we choose hospice?"
Specialized services: "Do you specialize in the care we need? Do you offer both palliative and hospice care?"
Reputation: "How have past patients and their families rated you?"
Credentials: “What credentials do you require for your hospice team?”