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Hospice Care

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There are many different types of care for seniors, and one of those that comes towards the end of life is called Hospice care. This type of care is specifically for elderly people who are nearing the end of their life and seek to live out their remaining days as comfortable as possible. This also means that life-saving efforts will no longer be taken to ensure their survival. With hospice care, there are dedicated caregivers that help with the emotional toll of end of life complications as well as medical support to reduce suffering.

What Is Hospice Care?

For those who are not sure about hospice care, we will explain all the details so you can understand it better. For anyone, learning that you are facing a terminal illness is frankly devastating. Just learning about the diagnoses can fill a person with anxiety and other emotions that have no equal. While some people are able to face their mortality head-on, most people find denial a more comforting option.

Hospice care has been formed to help seniors or others deal with their emotions and transition into death with dignity. Hospice care is not for those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness that still have a chance of beating their disease – that type of care is called palliative care. Hospice care is only for those who have a life expectancy of six months or less and who have chosen not to seek life-saving treatment.

How to Talk to Your Elderly Loved One About Hospice Care

Most families will only consider hospice care in the final few days of a person’s life. While this may be unavoidable in some cases, it is important to have a serious discussion about critical health care decisions prior to a health crisis. No one expects to deal with a life-threatening disease which can make talking about hospice care extremely difficult. Knowing how to get the conversation started and what information needs to be covered will help make the process easier.

The first thing to do is decide who should be a part of the hospice care conversation. This can mean keeping the decisions only between close family members or it could mean including important people from the patient's friend circle. In many cases, families will bring in at least one spiritual advisor to help with the process. Make sure that anyone who will be a productive part of the discussion is included.

An advance directive is a next step in the process. An advance directive is a legal form that gives medical providers a written account of the instructions you would like followed in regard to your healthcare. This should be put in place while the patient is of sound mind and able to make decisions for themselves. The directive ensures that if for any reason you are unable to speak on your own behalf, your wishes will be clear and must be legally followed.

Why Is It Important to Have an Advance Directive for Hospice Care?

It is important that we overemphasize the importance of understanding the wishes of a senior who is considering hospice care. The majority of elderly people plan to spend their final moments at home, but three-fourths of seniors will die in a medical facility. Seniors who do not have a living will or an advanced directive will be transferred twice during the last weeks of their life. Although most people prefer not to spend the end of their lives in pain, more than 80% of adults state that they do not wish to die on life support. In recent years, the number of people who remain on life support during the last three months of their lives has increased dramatically.

In the absence of an advanced directive or a living will, the spouse or close relatives will make a decision on behalf of the patient. Watching a loved one suffer or die is very difficult and it is natural for most loved ones to choose to medically extend the lives of those who are ill even if there is no chance of recovery. Having an advanced directive in place will ensure that your wishes or the wishes of your loved one to receive only hospice care are respected regardless of the high emotions that come near the end of life.

Hospice Care Questions to Consider

As you sit down to discuss hospice care options, here are some questions you should present to those involved:

  • What medications are provided in the hospice?
  • How will transportation be managed?
  • What are the policies regarding spiritual preferences?
  • Are there any ethical issues that may arise?
  • What quality of life can be expected?
  • Is care available at home or only at a dedicated facility?
  • Can we keep our own doctor? Are on-call nurses available?
  • What are the payment options & is it covered by Medicare/Medicaid?
  • Are feeding tubes provided?
  • What are the pain management options available?

Make sure to take notes to add any questions that may occur to you later that you may have overlooked.

Why Should My Family Consider Hospice Care?

For a lot of seniors who are facing terminal conditions, hospice care is a solution that allows them to live out their remaining days with dignity. Instead of being placed in an impersonal setting and spending time on treatments that are ineffective, hospice care allows you to find as much relief from pain as possible. Many treatments for terminal illnesses leave patients unaware or in too much distress to appreciate the time their loved ones spend with them.

There is a misconception that entering hospice care is simply giving up on living or rushing into death. In actuality, it is about improving the final moments so that the family and the patient are able to have a better quality of life and interaction for the time that remains.

Hospice care is for seniors or those suffering from fatal conditions that have a life expectancy of fewer than six months. Caregivers will work to relieve pain and reduce the side effects of the symptoms of the patient’s condition. Although relief measures are employed, no curative or life-saving efforts are used during hospice care.

A Closer Look at Hospice Care for Seniors

Senior hospice care is more than just simple pain relief a few days before the end of life. Senior hospice care involves every aspect of a person’s well-being, such as their emotional well being, their spiritual state of mind, their physical needs and overall management of their symptoms. Although we are covering senior hospice care, this service is available for anyone who is faced with a terminal illness regardless of their age. A hospice team will be made up of:

  • A hospice doctor
  • The regular doctor of the patient
  • Registered nurses
  • A hospice care case manager
  • Social workers
  • Volunteers
  • A religious leader
  • Professional therapist
  • A pharmacologist

This team of specially selected hospice care specialists will create a customized plan to manage pain, provide relief from the symptoms of the disease and also provide palliative therapies. In many cases, senior hospice care is provided in the home of the patient and supervised by a medical caregiver. These team members will make scheduled visits to ensure that all of the senior's needs are met during their remaining time. Many families will also hire a home health aide to assist with basic daily needs such as bathing and other personal care.

Hospice care is also available for seniors who reside in residential care facilities, dementia care facilities, and nursing homes. Hospice caregivers are able to provide care around the clock in an assisted living setting, which is important in your loved one's final days. Most hospice teams will also work with the families to help prepare them for the final result as well as help them manage their grief following transitioning.

What to Expect from Hospice Care?

There are three levels of hospice care that are structured according to the needs of the senior citizen and the wishes of the patient and their family. There is no certainty when it comes to terminal illnesses and both wishes and needs may change over time. There are three stages of hospice: the last phase of the condition, the period of dying, and finally bereavement. The type and level of care provided depend on which stage a person and their family is in, and the circumstances surrounding their condition.

The primary doctor will work with the hospice team to create a plan of action that suits the needs of your loved one. Spiritual guides will help the family and the patient come to terms with their fate as well as help to resolve any conflicting feelings regarding their impending death. In some cases, patients may have specific religious procedures they would like to follow as they near the end.

Nursing care will be provided to help monitor and ease your loved one in addition to helping the family understand what is happening at each stage. A social worker will be assigned to each case to ensure that families are able to get much-needed resources in addition to being a community advocate for your family.

There are home health aides for seniors who need assistance with basic tasks such as grooming and their daily needs. Volunteers will provide assistance as needed and where needed. Sometimes, this may be lending a supportive shoulder to cry on or help with simple errands. Physical, speech and occupational therapies may also be used to help re-train seniors on how to work around their illness to use their bodies for normal activities.

The Advantages of Respite Care & Bereavement Support for Hospice Patients

Terminal illnesses affect more than just the person afflicted; they also affect those who are close to the patient. Families that are caring for a terminally ill senior face an emotional and physical toll that comes from providing care. Hospice care not only seeks to address the needs of the senior citizen, but also their family circle.

Respite care is an important aspect of hospice care that gives primary caregivers crucial assistance for their loved one. Respite care allows for a senior or terminally ill person to stay at a hospice facility on an inpatient basis for a temporary time period. This is intended to give the caregivers, family and the patient a break to prevent caregiver burnout or resentment.

Bereavement Support is another critical function of hospice care. Watching your loved one deteriorate over time in addition to managing their care is a stressful and emotional process. So much time is spent thinking about treatment and managing care that family members often fail to prepare themselves for the inevitable end of life. Bereavement support is in place to help the family and friends cope with the passing of their loved ones following their illness. This can come in the form of a spiritual leader, therapist, or even volunteers who spend time counseling the family members following their loss.

When is it time for Hospice Care?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, there are many avenues to explore in regards to your next steps. For those who plan to fight their disease and seek curative measures, palliative care is the best choice. Hospice care is only intended for those who have reached a point where their treatments are no longer effective, or they have chosen to allow their disease to run its course. It is also meant for those who are expected to survive for no more than six months.

There is no exact time to seek hospice care, but you should know your options in advance. If you notice that your treatments are no longer effective and your symptoms continue to degrade, it may be time to seriously think about hospice care.

Seniors who no longer have a good quality of life due to the progression of their illness and ones who have been admitted to the hospital several times during the past year are also good candidates for hospice care.

Families and seniors who prefer for their final moments to be spent at home and no longer wish to seek a cure are some of the best candidates for home-based hospice care. No matter which of the above applies, if you are interested in learning more about hospice care, Senior Guidance is always here to help in your time of need.

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