Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about hospice care
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If a patient signs up with hospice, will they die sooner?
A: No, the hospice team will not hasten the death of any patient nor will they postpone it. They will aggressively treat the symptoms of the illness and will work together to make the end of life process as peaceful and comfortable for the patient as possible.
Q: If the patient lives longer than 6 months, will he or she still qualify for hospice?
A: Yes, if the patient’s physician and hospice medical director certify that the condition is still terminal and the patient’s condition is declining he or she will continue to receive hospice services.
Q: Does a patient have to have a DNR (Do Not Resucitate) order to sign up with hospice?
A: No, a patient does not have to have or agree to have a DNR order to qualify for hospice care. During the admission process, the nurse will give the patient and family information about Do Not Resuscitate orders and other Advanced Directives.
Q: How does a patient sign up for hospice?
A: A patient or family member can call the hospice office directly for more information. Admission to hospice requires a doctor’s order and an evaluation by a registered nurse. The evaluation can take place at the patient’s home, hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility. All services and treatments would be coordinated with the patient’s own physician and the hospice medical director.
Q:When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made and who should make it?
A: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. Most hospices accept patients who have a life-expectancy of six months or less and who are referred by their personal physician.
Q:Should I wait for a physician to raise the possibility of hospice or should I raise it first?
A:The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other health care professionals, clergy or friends.
Q: Is all hospice care the same?
A:No. Medicare requires certified hospices provide a basic level of care driven by the needs of the patient. However, the quality of all services can vary significantly from one hospice to another. You may want to call or meet with the hospices and ask questions about their services.
Q:What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
A:Hospice patients are cared for by a team consisting of a physician, a nurse, social workers, hospice aides, clergy, therapists, and volunteers. Each one provides assistance based on his or her own area of expertise. In addition, hospices provide medications, supplies, equipment, and other services related to the terminal illness.
Q:How does hospice “manage pain”?
A:Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it can address each. Hospice nurses and doctors are up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief and various counselors, including clergy, are available to assist family members as well as patients.
Q:Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
A:Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to have the patient as pain free and alert as possible. By constantly consulting with the patient, hospices have been very successful in reaching this goal.
Q:Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?
A:Most hospices provide continuing contact and support for caregivers for at least a year following the death of a loved one. Many hospices also sponsor bereavement groups and support for anyone in the community who has experienced a death of a family member, a friend, or similar losses.
Q:What does the hospice admission process involve?
A:Initially, the hospice program will contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for their patient. A nurse will visit the patient for a physical assessment to determine the appropriate needs and address any concerns. The patient will also be asked to sign consent and insurance forms, similar to the forms signed when entering a hospital.
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