Does Your Loved One Qualify for Hospice?

  • 5 Comments
  • Posted on Apr. 22nd, 2009

hospice, elder health careAs a hospice volunteer, past employee and experienced family member, I’m often asked by friends and relations to explain what, exactly, hospice is and isn’t. A previous post by Janice answers some of the common myths of hospice, but one question begs to be answered – does your loved one qualify? There is no better means to discuss such a sensitive matter than through stories, which I love to share.

Nana’s Story

My husband’s grandmother was at the end of her life. At 96 years old, she suddenly began a rapid decline in physical strength, appetite, and cognition. Nana was adamant that she wanted to stay in her home – the home her husband had built with his own hands.

Knowing that I had worked for hospice for years, my in laws came to me for advice. How could Nana get involved in hospice care? She didn’t have a disease. She was simply dying. How could they carry out her directives, giving her final dignity of choosing where she left this world, and how her final days were spent?

Explaining Hospice

I launched into the family discussion I’d led so many times with others, about what hospice is, and what it isn’t. I explained that a cross-disciplinary team consisting of social workers, elder health care nurses, and spiritual care providers cares for the entirety of the patient – mind, body and soul. I told them that this holistic approach was about choices. It’s not about giving up hope. Every day brings new hope for strengthened relationships, even as we begin to let go. And every day is focused on palliative (comfort-based) care, allowing the patient to live as fully as he or she can, in as little pain as possible.

The Right Diagnosis

Hospice care is suggested when a patient has six months or less of expected life span. In the US, a doctor may not refer a patient to hospice without this directive. Since Nana’s doctor had not recommended hospice, I suggested contacting him to obtain a directive. The doctor, who did not specialize in elder health care, did not realize that hospice was for more than cancer, AIDS or COPD. Hospice is often prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and “failure to thrive” – the diagnosis we requested for Nana.

Hospice was an easy decision for our family, because we knew no cure was available to be sought. Nana’s body was failing from age, and a life well-lived. Instead of wasting our final days together focusing on treatments to prolong her life, we focused on making her comfortable, sharing memories and saying goodbye. We spent almost six months in the program, and the family became closer than ever, brought together by an incredible woman who, even on her death bed, as she lost cognition, passed on the incredible gifts of love, hope, dignity and strength.

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–Kim Thies

  • 5 Comments... Add your opinion!
  1. On Apr. 22 2009 @ 7:23 am Jenn Jilks said

    One of the important things to know is that ‘Hospice’ does not have to mean a place. There are volunteers who will come to a person’s home to provide services and support.

    And that support does not end at death. Many provide grief counselling support and groups to help you through the time afterwards.
    The Cancer Society provides peer support services and while my father was dying I spoke to someone who had lost her parents. That support ended at their death, however.

    reply to this comment
  2. On Apr. 22 2009 @ 11:06 pm Mary said

    Thank you Jenn, this is very important to know.

    reply to this comment
  3. On Apr. 24 2009 @ 9:03 pm Kim Thies said

    You are right Jenn, perhaps the most common misconception about hospice IS that it is a place. Just last night I was watching a television show in which a person was “sent to” hospice – a sterile, hospital like setting that was depicted on screen.

    In actuality, most hospice care does take care in the home. Some areas do have hospice houses available, but even these are a home-like setting, designed to bring peace and solace to those who enter. Hospice is intended to be a holistic approach – to care for the mind, body and soul.

    I appreciate your comment and feedback!

    reply to this comment
  4. On Apr. 25 2009 @ 6:31 pm LISA said

    Your Message@Jenn Jilks:YOUR ARE SO RIGHT. I AM A HOMECARE RN AND FIND THAT THERE ARE SO MANY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HOSPICE.THIS BEING ONE. I HAVE DONE HOSPICE AS A IN HOME RN. IT IS A WONDERFUL AND DIGNIFIED EXPERIENCE.FOR MOST.. I WANT TO LET PEOPLE KNOW THAT MEDICARE AND MOST OTHER INSURANCES COVER HOSPICE AND HOMECARE EXPENSES. HOSPICE IS FOR END STAGE OF LIFE. IF A PERSON IS DIAGNOSED WITH A TERMINAL DISEASE, CANCER, ENDSTAGE HEART OR KIDNEY CONDITIONS OR ALZHEMIERS. THEY ARE ALSO ELIGIBLE TO RECIEVE BENEFITS. A PERSON MAY LOOK PERFECTLY FINE AND HAVE ONE OF THESE OR OTHER CONDITIONS AND STILL BE ABLE TO RECEIVE BENEFITS. YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH YOUR DR AS TO WHAT IS NEEDED AND WHEN. SOME CRITEREA STATES THAT YOU MUST BE DONE WITH AGGRESIVE TREATMENTS , HAVE APPROX 6 MOS OR LESS TO LIVE , AND HAVE A DR ORDER. THE GOAL OF HOSPICE IS TO KEEP THE PERSON AT HOME AND COMFORTABLE. IF I CAN BE OF ANY ASSISTANCE TO ANYONE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME VIA THIS POST.

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  5. [...] The rest is here:  Does Your Loved One Qualify for Hospice? [...]

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