What is Hospice?

Hospice is a specialized type of care for those facing a life-limiting illness, their families and their caregivers.

  • Hospice care addresses the patient’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs.
  • Hospice care also helps the patient’s home or in a home-like setting
  • Hospice care concentrates on managing a patient’s pain and other symptoms so that the patient may live as comfortable as possible and make the most of the time that remains
  • Hospice care believes the quality of life to be as important as length of life

Hospice is not a place

Hospice services can be provided to a person with limited life expectancy and his/her family, wherever they live.  This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility and his/her family can receive specialized visits/contacts from physicians, nurses, aides, chaplains, social workers and volunteers, in addition to other care and services provided by a nursing facility.  The hospice and the nursing home will have a written agreement in place in order for the hospice to serve residents of the facility.

How does hospice care being?

Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a “referral” is made  A Varco Hospice representative will visit the patient within 48 hours of referral, pending the physician’s approval, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family/primary caregiver.  Hospice care beings within a day or two of referral.  However in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.

The patient or a family member may “self-refer” and request an evaluation for eligibility for receiving hospice services.

When should a decision about entering a hospice be made - and who should make it?

At any time during a life-limiting illness, it is appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice.  By law the decision belongs to the patient.  Because hospice care includes family members and other caregivers,m they are also considered an important part of the decision-making process.

Sometimes, people have concerns about changing the focus of care from disease-modifying to focus on comfort care and quality of life.  Hospice staff members are highly sensitive to these concerns and are always available to discuss them with the patient, family and physician.

What specific assistance does Hospice provide?

Hospice patients and their families are cared for by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, aides, spiritual caregivers, therapists, and volunteers – working together in a team to address the patient’s and familiy’s identified needs  In addition, hospices help provide medications, supplies, equipment, hospital services, and additional helpers in the home, as appropriate.

How does hospice manage pain?

Hospice nurses and physicians are experts in the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief  In addition, physical and occupational therapists assist patients to be as mobile and self-sufficient as possible, and they are often joined by specialists schooled in music therapy, art therapy, diet counseling and other therapies.

Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it addresses these, as well.  Counselors, including spiritual caregivers, are available.

What is Palliative Care?

If you are not familiar with the term “palliative” care, it is a medical specialty focused on managing the physical and emotional impact of serious illness.  Sometimes people think palliative and hospice care are synonymous.  They are not.  Some organizations provide both hospice and palliative care.

Hospice is a specific branch of palliative care for those with a terminal diagnosis.  It is important to know you DO NOT have to forgo curative treatment or have a terminal diagnosis to receive palliative care.  

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