November: National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.

Many people shut down when the word “hospice” is mentioned or they even recoil at the image created in their mind. Many older adults think that even talking about hospice care might mean you won’t live long.

The main objective of hospice is to welcome the idea of passing away. A concept that everyone has to face eventually, but in the most comfortable and dignified manner possible.

There are very few who like to die in a hospital bed unless they don’t have any other choice. Most people would prefer dying surrounded by those who mean everything to them, including their pets. They want to be in their own bed, inside their own home and with those whom they care for and who continue to take care of them.

Hospice Facts

The statistics are surprising. The most recent study about hospice care made by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) found the following facts:

  • Every year 1.6 -1.7 million people get hospice care.
  • Each year that number has increased with more and more people understanding the value of the services provided.
  • By 2007, of those people who died with Medicare benefits, 30% got hospice care at the end of life.
  • The median length of service for patients receiving hospice benefits in 2014 was 17.4 days; the length of service on average was 71.3 days.
  • About 59% of seniors receiving hospice, get the care at their “home” or wherever they call home including a nursing home or residential center.
  • About 32% received care in an inpatient hospice facility.

What Hospice Can Do for Your Loved One

Hospice care offers a range of services for your senior with the skills of an interdisciplinary team.

  • Pain control
  • Medication management
  • Special services such as therapy (physical, occupational and speech)
  • Respite care
  • Volunteer services
  • Personal care
  • Assistance with spiritual care
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Caregiver education

These services often help to make the last days of life a much better experience for seniors and their families.

Hospice Staff Can Support Family Caregivers

Family caregivers may discover that they get much more care from a hospice service provider for their senior loved one than they might have originally expected.

Hospice staff will almost always involve family primary senior caregivers in the hospice program for their loved one. The wishes of the senior are paramount however when assisting the caregiver.

They offer emotional support along the way and continue doing so up to18 months after your loved one has passed away. They are trained in helping you manage with end of life care giving problems and then help you recover any kind of resulting trauma.

Chaplains can help your senior’s journey as they come to terms with their own life. They can also help with their personal relationships and help build upon their faith to the future. Chaplains also assist family members who might be having problems with the “why me” or “what now” questions which might appear as their life comes to an end.
They can dramatically help families come to terms with what is happening and also help find after the inevitable occurs.

Hospice Medical Professionals

Are you aware that hospice care often have dieticians that can assist caregivers who are in need of more help in finding the right comfort foods for their senior loved ones? For most people food is a comfort. We sometimes express love through food and cooking, baking and just watching others eat the food we prepare. Obviously, this does not change as we age. There might be a change in the texture, amount, temperature and choices of food that your senior might require to find comfort at this stage of life, but a hospice dietician can assist you and your family with these choices.

Most of us are aware that Nurses and Nurses Aides are the foundation of hospice care and they provide the practical care that seniors and their caregivers need. They can teach you strategies for taking care of your senior that you might not know which can even make your caregiving work a little easier.

These nurses give you the support you need. They listen to your problems and check in with friends all along the journey. They understand your worries and will put in extra effort to make your experience as a family caregiver notable and effective.

The Cost of Hospice Care

Most families worry about the cost of hospice care apart from medical costs related with a terminal illness. According to the NHPCO, hospice care is covered under Medicaid, Medicare, and most private insurance plans.

Whether people have the ability to pay or not, they will receive hospice care.

Medicare is the major payer for hospice care in the country. Taking care of the bill 85.5% of the time in 2014.

About 1 of 4 dying people (in need of hospice) in the US are veterans. Veterans are qualified for hospice care by the Veterans Administration that partners with community providers. Actually, many hospice providers take part in a program called We Honor Veterans to help veterans in need at the later stages of life.

Some hospices are learning how to best meet the needs of veterans who have unique diseases or shocking life experiences that need a modified approach. Location is one of the considerations as many are based in rural areas (about 3 million of the 8 million Veterans in the country today). Others issues that are considered include physical trauma, homelessness, PTSD and/or substance abuse.

Choosing The Right Hospice Care

Anyone who believes that dignity and comfort are important to them as they come to the end of their life, whether young or old, should express their desires through writing. This can be accomplished in various ways, like the Five Wishes or a Living Will format.

It is important to share your thoughts with your family so everyone knows what sort of measures you want taken clearly express what you think to be lifesaving heroics and what other things you might wan done. Family members will be certain to follow your last wished whatever they may be.

It is vital to prepare them to act on your behalf.

Depending on your condition, there may be certain forms that need to be completed, witnessed and carried out accordingly in case of disagreement among family members when the time comes.

It is essential to not only complete the documentation correctly but also make sure they are shared with the people involved so that they can successfully make decisions on your behalf.

Remember because you are making these wishes known prior to your death, they won’t be permanent. If you like to make any changes in the future, the papers can be easily corrected.

There are plenty of options that you can line out:

  • Let my dog be at my side at the end
  • Place daisies on my bedside
  • Dress me in my favorite nightgown and matching robe
  • When buried, place my grandmother’s ring or cameo earrings with me.
  • Don’t close the curtains

These may appear to be insignificant or silly, but they could make a huge difference in the way a person faces their last moments of life.

It might be an uncomfortable subject to consider but remember knowing more about how hospice care can help your senior loved ones or yourself is incredibly important.

Anytime is the right time to get family together and make known your wishes and desires for the end of life stage we will all have to face one day.

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