Similar to the Shakespearean adage, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” the benefits of hospice care are many and can be phrased, “What are the benefits of hospice? Let me count the ways.” Below we share the top benefits we often discuss with our clients as they consider whether hospice services are right for them and how the patient and the family might benefit.
1. Hospice care offers a specialized set of services.
Hospice is traditionally an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less and involves palliative care (pain and symptom relief) rather than curative treatment. Though associated with end-of-life, enrolling a loved one in hospice does not mean that the family or patient has “given up.” Instead, it’s an understanding and acceptance of a change in the way a loved one receives care. Hospice care providers offer specialized knowledge and support at the end of life just as obstetricians and midwives lend support and expertise at the start of life.
It’s also important to note that enrolling someone in hospice care is not an irreversible decision. If a patient’s condition improves, they can be discharged, or graduate, from hospice and return to other forms of treatment. They also can return to hospice care, if necessary.
2. Hospice offers quality of life at the end of life.
A myth persists that hospice care hastens death. The truth is that the mission of hospice is to improve the quality of remaining life so patients can enjoy time with family and friends and experience a natural, pain-free death with dignity, grace and support. In fact, research published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that terminally-ill patients who received hospice care lived on average 29 days longer than those who did not opt for hospice near the end of life. (Source: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization)
3. Hospice is less expensive than hospital care.
The costs for caring for a loved one under hospice supervision at home are significantly less expensive than receiving medical care in the hospital. Most private insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid help cover hospice care expenses with many programs covering the costs of related prescriptions and supplies as well. Check with your individual insurance company to see what items are covered.
4. Hospice care is provided in a familiar and comforting environment.
Most of the families we speak with are concerned that their loved ones remain in a familiar and comforting environment as long as possible. While some hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities provide hospice care onsite, most hospice patients receive services in their home. Under hospice supervision, a team of skilled professionals come to the patient’s residence to deliver care.
The team usually includes the patient’s physician, a hospice doctor, a case manager, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, a counselor, a dietician, therapist, pharmacologist, social workers, a minister and various trained volunteers. In addition to medical care, they can assist or provide personal care services including grooming and bathing.
5. Hospice provides family counseling
Family members experience a range of emotions as their loved one’s physical and/or mental conditions change. Hospice offers guidance from social workers and chaplains while the patient is receiving hospice care as well as grief counseling after a loved one has passed. They can also help with some of the after-death tasks that need to be completed.
If you’d like to learn more about aspects of hospice care, read the Hospital and Palliative Care article on HelpGuide.org.
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By Cathy Chlarson, June 7, 2016