Solace and Care: What to Expect When a Loved One Enters Hospice
Most of us shy away from the idea of mortality. People who enter hospice care typically have run out of treatment options and have difficult decisions to make about end-of-life care. Hospice is a sensitive, caring service dedicated to making clients as comfortable as possible so they can enjoy the highest-possible quality of life and face death with dignity.
Approximately 1.5 million Americans choose to enter hospice every year, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, yet there are still widely-held misconceptions. Some see hospice as a service providing reduced or substandard care because clients have been pronounced terminal, and some people even believe hospice denies treatment in some cases.
Of course, neither of these beliefs are true, and if you have a loved one entering hospice, it helps to know what to expect. That’s why AfterTalk has put together the following information outlining what you can anticipate in the days ahead.
The Hospice Process
Patients begin hospice care as soon as they’re referred by a doctor. It’s a collaborative effort in which both the patient and the family work closely with the hospice staff to develop a care plan. The care team may include a hospice and primary care physician, as well as a nurse, home health aide, social worker and spiritual care provider. Care is usually provided in the patient’s home, but hospice care may also take place in hospitals, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes. The hospice team takes the lead in providing care, but family members remain involved throughout the process, helping the patient stay comfortable and in good spirits.
Who Pays for Hospice Care?
Hospice care is covered if you’re in Medicare or Medicaid. Coverage is also available through private insurance plans and HMOs, though it’s important to check your policy for details about the services for which your plan will pay. If a patient lacks insurance or if money is a problem, many hospice companies are willing to set up a payment plan.
Today, a funeral costs, on average, between $7,000 and $9,000. That covers burial, transportation to the funeral home, a casket, embalming and other services. Costs have been on the rise for nearly 40 years, so it’s advisable to start planning for a funeral earlier rather than later. Make sure you understand all services and what they cost to avoid unexpected surprises, and because a loved one may want special arrangements that can raise the price. Find out if your loved one wants to be buried or cremated, and find out if he or she has burial insurance, which will defray some of the expense involved.
Naturally, you can expect to be jostling a lot of different paperwork, so do your best to stay organized – especially when emotions are running high. You can save yourself a lot of time and stress by digitizing all your documents and converting them to PDFs. Need to merge PDF files online? This free tool will allow you to combine all your PDFs into one document, thus avoiding a lot of confusion.
Having loved ones nearby can be a tremendous comfort to hospice patients. Family members can stand by with ice chips when the patient’s mouth gets dry, keep his head turned when breathing becomes labored, keep him dry if incontinence sets in, and provide a soothing voice and a reassuring touch. Regulating room temperature, getting extra blankets, and helping with medication are also valuable services family members can provide.
Recognizing the Signs
Hospice helps families prepare for a loved one’s death, but it’s never easy to face when the time comes. Death is often presaged by shortness of breath, diminished appetite and thirst, excessive sleeping, a gradual withdrawing from others, and a mottling of extremities. As death nears, the individual emits a moist, respiratory sound, commonly called the “death rattle.” These can be alarming phenomena to family members, but hospice professionals are good about reminding everyone that it’s all part of a natural process in which the body gradually shuts down.
Hospice is a reassuring and loving service that helps both patient and family members pass through a sad but inevitable transition with dignity. The primary goal of hospice professionals is to preserve dignity for the patient and bring comfort to all. People can gain valuable wisdom from the experience that helps them achieve a more informed perspective on life and death.
Free, Non-Profit and Non-denominational
Every Wednesday we will be publishing Pandemic Weekly for, we hope, not too long. We invite you to submit your thoughts, essays, poems or songs. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. To see past Pandemic Weeklies, CLICK HERE