Coming to terms with hospice care

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There may come a time during your loved one\’s final stages of life where hospice care becomes the most practical and dignified decision. People often have misconceptions about this stage of treatment, not fully understanding what role hospice plays. At its best, this care can help patients alleviate any suffering from their disease, especially reducing any pain.

Hospice care is limited to those individuals who have been judged by a doctor to be at the end of their life. Under hospice, aggressive treatments aimed at taking care of an illness are not performed. Rather, hospice focuses on controlling pain and suffering to make the patient comfortable.

Ask about the specifics

Many families are under the impression that the hospice agency will take the entire burden off the family’s shoulders. That is not the case at all; in fact, caregivers are stunned by the responsibilities that are still left to them.

Caregivers find they must supplement any hospice care with at-home medical or non-medical services. Everyday errands and housework, not to mention the emotional strains of taking care of a loved one can become overwhelming.

· Hospice workers do not provide all-day care, or any companion care. Very few hospice agencies have active volunteer groups to help with errands and housework.

· A nurse will visit; anywhere from one to two times-per-week to update the medical records and advise the family on existing or new regimens.

· An aide will visit anywhere from twice to three times per week to provide sponge baths, perform grooming, change bedding and update medical records.

Keep in mind, however, that although Medicare and Medicaid will pay for hospice services, there are many other out-of-pocket expenses that are not covered, and add up quickly.

People are so accustomed to expect two kinds of death; either sudden or the serene passage during sleep. Most of us never think about the bedridden individual who needs constant care.

Hospice care can be an unpleasant decision to discuss and think about. Focusing on a loved one’s end-of-life is disheartening but promising an individual that he or she can spend their final days with dignity, and in as little pain as possible can reduce their suffering.