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Our thanks to Lucille Rosetti, for this contribution to our blog.
When a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the following days, weeks, and months can be scary and overwhelming. How can you make sure your loved one is comfortable? What arrangements need to be made? Hospice care is the next step, but what is it exactly?
According to MedicineNet, hospice care is “Care designed to give supportive care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure.” The ultimate goal is for your loved one to live out their remaining time comfortably and pain-free, while also supporting their emotional, social, and spiritual needs. If hospice is the next plan of action for your loved one, here is some helpful information to walk you through the process.
Starting the Hospice Care Process
Starting hospice care is simple – all it takes is a referral. The referral can come from a family member or friend, but typically a healthcare professional makes it. Once the request is made, care typically begins within two days. Keep in mind that eligibility for hospice states that your loved one must have received a life expectancy from a physician of six months or less, and has elected to stop all curative treatment. Terminal illnesses are unpredictable, so rest assured your loved one can continue to receive hospice care long after six months is up as long as their doctor certifies their eligibility.
Each disease and condition carries its own eligibility criteria as well. Although you will receive a referral, you aren’t obligated to use that particular provider. There are many hospice providers, so use this list of essential questions to help you choose the right provider for your loved one.
Getting to Know Your Care Team
Your loved one’s care team will include doctors, nurses, social workers, home health aides, and clergy/counselors. However, the one person you will likely be working with the most is a hospice care social worker. Having completed a Master’s of Social Work program via an accredited online or in-person university and the required 900 to 1,200 hours of field work, you can rest assured that the social worker assigned to your loved one has the background, knowledge, and expertise necessary to walk you, and at times carry you through this process. The social worker can assist you, your loved one, and family members with the following:
End-of-life planning and documentation
Point of contact for local agencies and resources
Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid paperwork
Arrangements/paperwork after your loved one has passed
Identifying emotional and spiritual needs of you and your loved ones and finding necessary support
Help finding grief counseling
Be An Advocate for Holistic Therapy
Hospice care doesn’t involve curative treatment, but pain/symptom management is key. This can be accomplished through medication, but you might also suggest holistic therapy as a complement such as massage therapy, reflexology, reiki, music therapy, guided imagery, meditation, or acupuncture. Unfortunately Medicare doesn’t cover holistic medicine, but it does offer some coverage for a licensed doctor of osteopathic medicine. However, if your loved one has a Medicare Advantage plan, there are additional benefits such as wellness programs and healthier food options, both of which offer a holistic care approach.
Be A Source of Support and Comfort
Whether your loved one is receiving hospice care at home or in a hospice facility or nursing home, you can be a source of support and comfort. Be mindful and respectful of their wishes, and assist in any way they ask you. Spend time together and share memories or create a legacy video. Most importantly, just be there, whether it’s to chat, watch their favorite shows, read a book together, or simply sit.
If hospice is the next step, take a deep breath. The care and support you and your loved one will receive is a bright spot during a difficult time. Rest assured that once you find the hospice provider that best meets your loved one’s needs and criteria, you’ll have a team to guide you every step of the way.