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What is Hospice and Palliative Care?

Hospice and Palliative Care for Senior Adults is a specialized form of care designed to provide comfort and support to individuals in the last stages of life. Hospice and Palliative Care focuses on providing relief from physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering, and helping individuals and their loved ones to make informed decisions about end-of-life care. Hospice and Palliative Care teams work together to provide an interdisciplinary approach to care, which may include nursing, social work, counseling, spiritual care, and bereavement support. The goal is to help seniors and their families to make the most of the time they have together.

Palliative Care

Palliative care focuses on symptom relief for serious, potentially life limiting illnesses like cancer, or severe lung or heart disease. Palliative care is provided by specialists in symptom relief who can treat pain, but also other symptoms like difficulty breathing, nausea, anxiety and depression.

Palliative care services can be provided at the same time that you are receiving care from all other current doctors and providers. For example, a patient can continue to receive cancer, chemotherapy, and have palliative care help manage pain and nausea related to the cancer and chemotherapy. You do not have to give up any current treatment to qualify for palliative care.

The palliative care team may include a physician, nurse practitioner, RN or social worker. These services are generally covered to some extent by commercial insurance as well as by Medicare. The palliative care team is frequently involved in discussions with patients and families regarding their goals of care and how to decide about care near the end of life. They can help you explore the pros and cons of different options .

 Hospice Care

Hospice care is specialized care for patients and families confronting serious life limiting illness. Hospice is appropriate for patients when cure is no longer possible. If your doctor thinks you are in the last 6 to 12 months of life, hospice is worth considering. The goal of hospice is to provide support for your physical, psychological and spiritual needs in such a way that you and your family have the highest possible quality of life in your remaining time.

Hospice is sometimes thought of as a service for cancer patients, but the reality is that a minority of hospice patients have cancer. Many have  advanced heart , kidney or lung disease, or advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the disease the emphasis is always of symptom management and improving the quality of life.

All hospice organizations provide the same core services as determined by the Medicare guidelines. Hospice care provides visits once or twice a week by an RN, additional professional visits may include home health aides, social workers, chaplain and music, pet and aroma therapy.  All care is overseen by a hospice physician.’

There are many hospice organizations so it is highly recommended to interview at least a few hospices. Hospice organizations will provide informational visits free of charge to families to discuss any questions or concerns regarding hospice care.

Benefits:

  • Pain Management: Hospice and palliative care focuses on managing pain and other distressing symptoms so that individuals can live as comfortably as possible. With Hospice, medications can be delivered right to your home.
  • Emotional Support: Hospice and palliative care providers recognize the importance of emotional and spiritual support for both the individual and their family.
  • Family Support: Hospice and palliative care teams provide support and assistance to family members as they cope with the changes in their loved one’s health and life.
  • Coordinated Care: Hospice and palliative care teams coordinate and manage care among multiple healthcare providers to ensure the best possible outcome for the individual.
  • Caregiver Support: Hospice and palliative care teams provide support and assistance to families.
  • End-of-Life Care: Hospice and palliative care teams provide compassionate end-of-life care and support for terminally ill individuals and their families.
  • Covered Health Care Benefit: Hospice and palliative are a Medicare and Medicaid benefit.  Palliative care will have a co-pay like any other specialist. Many hospices will also accept patients who have no medical coverage.

Hospice Eligibility

  • Two doctors must approve the hospice eligibility.
  • The anticipated life expectancy of 6 months or less when cure is no longer and option.
  • Have decided to stop all curative measures; this means you are no longer treating the disease.

Palliative Care Eligibility

  • Palliative care is appropriate for anyone with a serious or potentially life limiting illness. Palliative  care can be started at any time including at the time of diagnosis.

Hospice Compare Website

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is sharing information about hospice providers to permit the public to compare hospice providers on measures of care quality.

Click on the link below to find Medicare-certified hospices that serve your area and compare them based on the quality of care they provide.

https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/

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