HOSPICE THE DIFFICULT DECISION
WHAT IS HOSPICE AND WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?
From the Physician’s Desk….Queen, Your Clinician and Cancer Advocate!
My heart is saddened and heavy whenever I am faced with the prospect of having the difficult end of life discussion. Every life is beautiful, but for me, it is even more heart wrenching when having this discussion with younger patients. For most younger patients, insurance can be an issue. For older patients with Medicare, most are unaware of what is covered. Here is a brief overview, mostly taken from Medicare
What is Hospice?
There are many definition and assumptions about what Hospice is and what it entails. Many fear the word and do not care to have their love one in hospice. However, the focus on hospice is not just dying, but how your love one dies. Here are few basic information from Medicare.
Hospice is a program of care and support for people who are terminally ill. Only your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) can certify that you’re terminally ill and have 6 months or less to live. Here are 7 important facts about hospice:
- Hospice helps people who are terminally ill live comfortably
- Hospice isn’t only for people with cancer
- The focus is on comfort, not on curing an illness
- A specifically trained team or professionals can caregivers provide care for the “whole person,” including physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs
- Service typically include physical care, counseling, drugs, equipment, and supplies for the terminal illness and related conditions
- Care generally is provided in the home
- Family caregivers can get support
In addition, a hospice nurse and doctor are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to give you and your family support and care when you need it.
- Hospice care is for people with a life expectancy of 6 months or less (if the illness runs its normal course). If you live longer than 6 months, you can still get hospice care, as long as the hospice medical director or other hospice doctor recertifies that you’re terminally ill
- You can get hospice care for two 90-day benefit periods, followed by an unlimited number of 60-day benefit periods
- You have the right to change your hospice provider once during each benefit period.
- At the start of the first 90-day benefit period, your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) must certify that you’re terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less)
- At the start of each benefit period after the first 90-day period, the hospice medical director or other hospice doctor must recertify that you’re terminally ill, so you can continue to get hospice care
Finding a hospice program
Consider these questions when choosing your hospice care providers:
- Is the hospice provider certified and licensed by the state or federal government?
- Does the hospice provider train caregivers to care for you at home?
- How will your doctor work with the doctor from the hospice provider?
- How many other patients are assigned to each member of the hospice care staff?
- Will the hospice staff meet regularly with you and your family to discuss care?
- How does the hospice staff respond to after-hour emergencies?
- What measures are in place to ensure hospice care quality?
- What services do hospice volunteers offer? Are they trained?
Medicare only covers your hospice care if the hospice provider is Medicare-approved.
When is the right time for hospice?
The right time for hospice is a personal and/or family decision. It really depends on the conversations you have had with your doctor about if and when your disease is terminal. If you are faced with considering hospice for a love one, be sure to discuss your with a case manager, or provider who is familiar with all the options available. Death is never easy. The best remedy is to love hard and live well.
Ipsa Scientia Potestas est ——— Knowledge itself is power!
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I’m Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!
Until next time…