Tuesday, November 29, 2016
As we wrap up Home Care & Hospice Month, here’s a look at a vital but often misunderstood service
Home Care & Hospice Month is observed in November, a chance to put the spotlight on some very important services that Mountain States provides – but particularly with hospice care, it’s a very misunderstood service.
Hospice is end-of-life care. A team of healthcare professionals and volunteers provide medical, psychological and spiritual support, with the goal being to help people who are dying have peace, comfort and dignity.
Candice Greenlee, RN, BSN, is hospice agency manager for Mountain States Home Care & Hospice. She said there are plenty of misconceptions about hospice care.
“One of the biggest battles we face is that many people come to hospice care much, much too late and they don’t have as good of an experience or get the full benefits,” she said. “They feel like hospice means literally that last breath or the last week or two of life, when actually it’s designed for the longer term.”
Medicare identifies the hospice situation as a diagnosis of a life expectancy of six months or less. There is a whole team of people – chaplains, aids, social workers, nurses, and volunteers– who need time to build a relationship with the patient and the family, and the sooner they are called upon, the better the end-of-life experience will be for everyone involved, Greenlee said.
Hospice care can take place:
- At home
- At a hospice center
- In a hospital
- In a long-term care facility
The caregivers try to control pain and other symptoms so a person can remain as alert and comfortable as possible. Hospice programs also provide services to support a patient’s family. At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each person has the right to die comfortably and with dignity, and that families receive the necessary support for that to happen.
Unfortunately hospice care is something many families are reluctant to use.
“A lot of families will say, ‘We’re not ready to give up yet; we don’t want to go to hospice care and give up hope.’ I say you hold onto that hope, and we’ll hold onto it with you,” Greenlee said. “It’s all about providing the best quality of life. You’re going to have to face tough decisions and difficult symptoms, and there are things you’re not prepared to deal with, and we can help.
“And this doesn’t mean someone is bed-bound and stuck at home until their last day. We’ve helped arrange for someone to go to a baseball game in Maryland, to visit Disney World, to go on a final fishing trip to the Outer Banks. We want them to live the last part of their life with the highest quality.”
An extremely important part of the hospice process is helping prepare an advance directive – a legal document in which the patient specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. Having this already established can make a huge difference to the rest of the family when they’re faced with tough medical decisions about their loved one.
Hospice provides family support not only during the illness but also after the loss of their loved one. Mountain States Hospice offers 13 months of bereavement service after the fact.
“So if someone who’s dying is worried about how their son or daughter will get through the experience, or even who will take care of their pets after they die, this gives both family and patient some peace that we’ll be there to help you,” Greenlee said.
Home care, sometimes called home health, is a skilled care option that allows people to stay in their home setting and receive care. Someone may not need hospital care or nursing home care, but may require assistance with their day-to-day health and personal needs. In some cases, assistance or care is needed for a new condition or to manage a disease. Home care may:
- Shorten or prevent hospital stays
- Eliminate the need for nursing home stays
- Assist in the management of illness or injury
“The team is here to partner with you and help you get back to your previous quality of life,” Greenlee said. “It’s physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurses – people who can teach you how to take care of yourself at home.”
Home care often helps people with diseases like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), congestive heart failure, pneumonia or diabetes.
Both home care and hospice care are important services that often get overlooked when it comes to health care.
“We want to take this time to thank our home health, hospice, and durable medical equipment team members for the dedication to their patients,” Greenlee said. “They make a remarkable difference for the patients and families they serve.”
She encourages anyone with questions about hospice or home health to contact Mountain States Home Care & Hospice to learn more. Visit www.mountainstateshealth.com/medical-services/home-care-hospice or call 1-800-327-5447.