Understanding Hospice Care

March 2023 – In upcoming Living Well broadcast on Beaver County WBVP/WMBA Radio, to air March 11th, at 8:30 am, my co-host, Jeff Bost PAC, and I discussed hospice care.  In February, former President Jimmy Carter announced he was entering into hospice care. The 98-year-old expected to spend his remaining time at home surrounded by his family. With that news many people have requested to learn more about what it means and the criteria to enter hospice care.

Hospice Care is BIG, But Should be BIGGER!

In 2020, 1.72 million patients were taken care of through hospice services in the United States. About 50% of Medicare beneficiaries received hospice care in their last 30 days or less of life
This issue is despite significantly positive reports about hospice care over 2,700 people daily experience (non-sudden) deaths without the benefits of hospice. This is why the topic and understanding of hospice care is so important to let people know.

Of all patients receiving hospice care, the majority, 66 % received care at their own home. Only 27 % received care at an inpatient location. The goal of hospice care is, unlike other medical care, isn’t to cure the underlying disease. The goal is to support the highest quality of life possible for whatever time remains. Hospice care is for people who are nearing the end of life.
The services are provided by a team of health care professionals who maximize comfort for a person who is terminally ill by reducing pain and addressing physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Hospice care is an insurance benefit that focuses specifically on the care, comfort, and quality of life of a person with a serious illness who is approaching the end of life.
It provides comprehensive care for the patient and the family. Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs and private insurance typically pay for hospice care.

Why Hospice is Important for all who are at End-of-Life

  • Hospice improves mental health.
  • Hospice does a better job of keeping patients comfortable.
  • Hospice decreases strain on family caregivers.
  • Hospice improves survival time.
  • Patients at home with hospice live longer than patients in the hospital with palliative care.
  • Medicare pays 100% for hospice which includes home nursing, related supplies, related meds, and related equipment. This decreases the financial burden on families.
  • The earlier a patient receives hospice, the greater the patient’s comfort, the better the mental health, the longer the survival time, the greater the satisfaction, and the lower the healthcare costs.

Who can Benefit from Hospice Care?

Hospice care is for a terminally ill person who’s expected to have 6-months or less to live. But hospice care can be provided for as long as the person’s doctor and hospice care team certify that the condition remains life-limiting.  Many people who receive hospice care have cancer, while others have heart disease, dementia, kidney failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Enrolling in hospice care early helps you live better and live longer. Hospice care decreases the burden on family and can be done either at home or in a facility. Hospice also allows a patient to be cared for at a facility for a period of time, not because the patient needs it, but because the family caregiver needs a break. This is known as respite care.

Hospice Offers – LOTS

St. Barnabas Heath System and many Healthcare providers have excellent hospice care to offer in the W. PA. area. St. Barnabas’s Hospice has a dedicated team of  Physicians, nurses, aides, social workers, bereavement counselors, spiritual coordinators, and volunteers. Led by our medical director, this team collaborates and works to make Hospice patients as comfortable as possible.  They also focus on communication to updated the latest information to family members.

Hospice Care – Myths and Facts

Myth: Hospice Means Giving Up Hope.

Fact: Hospice means care that promotes quality of life and comfort, with research showing that many live longer with hospice care than without. Some patients even show improvement and can be discharged.

Myth: Hospice Is Only For Cancer Patients.

Fact: Hospice is for anyone who has a life-limiting illness.

Myth: Hospice Means Someone Only Has Days Or Weeks To Live.

Fact: Hospice is intended for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live, assuming the illness runs its normal course. Fortunately, many live beyond this six-month period with hospice care, though it does not hasten or prolong death. The earlier patients elect for hospice care, the more benefits they and their loved ones will receive.

Myth: Hospice Is Where You Go To Die.

Fact: Hospice is not a physical location but a service. Our hospice care commonly takes place at the following:

  • The patient’s own home
  • A skilled medical center
  • A living assistance community
  • At a hospital, if the need arises

Myth: Hospice Means Stopping All Treatments.

Fact: Treatment continues with hospice care, with the focus shifting from curative treatment to modalities that promote quality of life, including pain and symptom management via pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions.

Myth: Once You Elect Hospice, There Is No Turning Back.

Fact: Patients can decide to revoke hospice at any time should they decide to pursue curative treatment again. Patients can also re-elect hospice at a later time.

Living Well airs weekly – Please listen at Living Well broadcast on Beaver County WBVP/WMBA Radio.