Planning for the future is never an easy task, especially if it involves the future of your aging parents. However, end of life planning can bring you peace of mind and lower stress for your loved ones by having a procedure in place in case of an emergency. Hospice is an end of life care option that can bring your loved one the best care possible in their final months.
There are a lot of assumptions about hospice and end of life planning, but it’s important to separate fact from fiction regarding end of life care.
Is Hospice Care Required for End of Life Situations?
Hospice care is not required for end of life situations but it’s an option for a patient whose life expectancy is six months or less due to terminal illness. It can provide medical care for your loved one to live out the rest of their life with the best quality of life possible.
Hospice care is provided wherever the patient is most comfortable - whether that be at home, a nursing home, inpatient hospital, or assisted living facility. Hospice is just one approach to end of life care, but it is an option that prioritizes support of the patient - whether it be medical, emotional, or spiritual.
For many older adults, hospice care is a comfortable option that combines medical care to alleviate symptoms with a setting of their choice. Patients receiving in-home hospice care can expect hospice nurses to make regular visits depending on their condition, though nurses are always available by phone every hour of the day, seven days a week.
Common Myths About Hospice Services Debunked
There are plenty of hospice myths out there, so it’s important to differentiate the truth from common misconceptions.
Myth: Hospice is Giving up
Hospice is not giving up, it’s medical care with the goal of providing the utmost comfort and quality of care when patients are considered terminal. It is the “something more” for a loved one who’s been told there is nothing more that can be done for their medical condition. Remember, patients and their caregivers ultimately have the final say about when to choose hospice and who provides care.
Myth: Hospice is Expensive
Contrary to popular belief, hospice is fully funded by Medicare and Medicaid and is also covered by many private insurance providers. Most plans will cover the costs of providing hospice, medications, supplies, and equipment with no out-of-pocket expenses. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs also covers hospice care for veterans.
Myth: Hospice Only Happens at a Hospital
Hospice is not a place but a setting. It can be set up wherever your loved one calls “home” or wherever they are most comfortable, whether that be their physical home, assisted living communities, or long-term care facilities.
Myth: Hospice is Where People Go to Die
Does hospice care hasten death? Hospice care is focused on providing the best quality of life for the patient, not on accelerating death. The goal is to make the patients as comfortable as possible towards the end of life. There have even been studies showing that some patients live longer when receiving hospice services when compared to other options.
Myth: All Hospices are the Same
There are thousands of hospices in the United States. Although most provide the same services and participate with Medicare/Medicaid, some may be nonprofit or for-profit. Other hospices may be community-based or serve many states from a central location. However, all hospices have the shared goal of supporting quality of life for the patient.
Hospice and the End of Life Process
The final stages of terminal illness can be hard and emotional. At this point, your focus should change to making your loved one’s end of life as comfortable as possible. Depending on their condition, it could last from a couple weeks up to several years.
Palliative care can provide medical relief for your loved one’s terminal illness, but hospice care combines palliative with other skills to provide your loved one with the support they need that is not just medical, but emotional and spiritual as well.
If you and your loved one think that hospice may be the next step, you and your family should sit down with your loved one and discuss end of life planning. Ask what your loved one wants. With hospice, they can choose to receive care wherever they feel most comfortable. Once you have a clear plan, you can shift your focus to what really matters: spending quality time together and making your loved one’s end of life as fulfilling as possible. Remember, it's important to understand your loved one’s wishes, preferences, and arrangements for the future - this includes healthcare, legal documents, and financial decisions.
Where to Get Advice or Find Additional Resources for End of Life Planning
Talking with your family and aging loved ones about their future and end of life planning can be difficult and complicated. It’s normal to encounter uncertainty with other members of the family. However, remember that your loved one’s wishes should be a priority.
If you need help laying out a plan and educating yourself before making these big decisions, Homethrive's Care Guides can help. Homethrive’s Care Guides are social workers who develop a plan with you, set goals, and provide personalized coaching while coordinating supportive services such as home care, home cleaning, and much more. They are trained to help families navigate hospice and end of life planning, as well as assist families with questions about the aging process.