Some people are content to leave decisions regarding their death in the hands of others. By doing so, they may expose themselves to unnecessary and futile treatments to prolong their life. They may also experience numerous visits to the emergency room in the last stages of their life. This dependency on others often results in great stress to family members, when elders lose their capacity and have not made their last wishes known. Family is often forced to make decisions about life support and treatment without knowing whether their loved one would have wanted these interventions.
Adding a knowledge of hospice care to your planning for the final years provides assurance your last days or those of a loved one will be spent where and how you want.
There are companies that specialize only in hospice care. Or it is often the case that home health agencies also offer hospice. Hospice provides a team of specialists that work under a physician’s orders to provide every aspect of care. This could include:
- Hospice case manager
- Physical therapist
- Social worker
- Bereavement counselors
Hospice is generally used for cancer patients because it is often easy to determine in advance whether a person will survive or not. If the cancer is not cured and continues to spread, death is usually inevitable. Whether that occurs in a matter of weeks or months is not important to the doctor prescribing hospice. The only requirement is the doctor must have a reasonable expectation that his patient cannot survive beyond six months. Sometimes hospice patients can receive care for years before they succumb.
For other medical conditions, hospice may be just as appropriate, but oftentimes the family fails to inquire or the family doctor simply doesn’t consider it. Hospice should be considered for such conditions as congestive heart failure, advanced diabetes, advanced lung disease, advanced autoimmune disorders, advanced kidney disease and so on. Even in the absence of any medical condition, a person can still qualify for hospice if he or she is deteriorating rapidly and overall health is declining.
Another condition often overlooked for hospice is advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Families often wait until a loved one starts shutting down before hospice is ordered. Or sometimes hospice is not even considered for Alzheimer’s because doctors are so used to using this care only for cancer.
If a loved one is not improving, family should always ask or even press for hospice. Remember not to wait until close to the end but order hospice at an earlier stage since it will help provide the transition to the death of a loved one in a more dignified way.
A new service is being introduced into the hospice care program – home telehospice. It provides 24 hour nursing support for the caregiver without the nurse being physically in the home. Videophones installed in the home and able a caregiver to call with questions or to get instructions from a nurse in doing care procedures and monitoring a hospice patient.
The nurse or other medical persons can view the patient and determine what needs to be done. They can then instruct the caregiver. This service relieves questions and concerns that often pop up late at night without one of the hospice staff traveling to the home. Under most conditions, Medicare will cover home telehospice. As with telehealth, this service is more suitable for rural areas where driving long distances to make visits is difficult or impossible.