Frequently Asked Questions
When is the right time to ask about hospice?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect from hospice services. Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
How does hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by the patient’s doctor. Often a hospice program representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family/primary caregiver. Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral. However, in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.
Is hospice available after hours?
Hospice care is available ‘on-call’ after the administrative office has closed, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Canon Hospice has nurses available to respond to a call for help, and our chaplains and social worker are also available to assist in your spiritual and social needs.
How does the hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?
Many patients may have pain and other serious symptoms as illness progresses. Hospice staff receives special training to care for all types of physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress. Because keeping the patient comfortable and pain-free is an important part of hospice care, many hospice programs have developed ways to measure how comfortable the patient is during the course of their stay in hospice. Hospice staff works with the patient’s physician to make sure that medication, therapies, and procedures are designed to achieve the goals outlined in the patient’s care plan. The care plan is reviewed frequently to make sure any changes and new goals are in the plan.
Can I be cared for by hospice if I reside in a nursing facility or other type of long-term care facility?
Hospice services can be provided to a terminally ill person wherever they live. This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility can receive specialized visits from hospice nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers, and volunteers, in addition to other care and services provided by the nursing facility. The hospice and the nursing home will have a written agreement in place in order for the hospice to serve residents of the facility.
How does hospice care work?
Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What services are provided?
Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms;
Assists the patient with the emotional and psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying;
Provides needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment;
Coaches the family on how to care for the patient;
Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time; and
Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends.
Does hospice mean euthanasia? Will hospice make my loved one die sooner?
The goal of hospice is to provide comfort as the natural process of dying takes its course. In no way is there any effort or intention to hasten a patient’s death while on hospice, just to provide comfort while the patient’s journey comes to an end.
How long are the hospice team’s visits?
Visits from the hospice team can vary greatly depending on the patient’s conditions and needs, so it is not possible to give an accurate estimate. It is best to plan to address your needs and observations prior to the team member’s arrival to make the most of their visit.
How often will team members visit?
Frequency of visits by team members depends upon the patient’s needs and condition, as well as the number of hospice programs the patient opts to receive or is eligible for. As a guideline it is best to assume that the nurse will visit twice weekly with periodic visits from other team members.
What is hospice?
If hospice is for dying, does choosing a hospice mean giving up on my loved one?
No. When treatment options for a disease have been exhausted or no longer work, hospice provides a way for people to live in comfort, peace and dignity without curative care. Hospice isn’t about giving up, but about improving the quality of the patient’s life by being free of pain, surrounded by family and in the comfort of home.
Will our family still have a say about our mother’s care if she is on hospice?
Yes. Family input is important and is the driving force behind developing the most effective plan of care for your mother.
Who will talk to me about my loved one once we have hospice? Who will keep us informed?
You will always be kept up-to-date on your loved one’s condition. The primary hospice nurse can answer any questions you have, tell you about your loved one’s care and progress, and prepare you for what to expect.
If I have home health, why do I need hospice care?
Hospice offers many services home health care does not, such as prescriptions, medical equipment and visits from an interdisciplinary healthcare staff. Typically, the goal of home healthcare is to help the patient become more independent, and visits decrease in frequency as the patient’s condition improves. The goal of hospice is to keep the patient comfortable as symptoms increase. Hospice services change to fit the needs of the patient.
Why would I put my child in hospice? Isn’t hospice for the very old?
Hospice is for anyone with a terminal disease. From infants to adult through old age, hospice offers quality of life near the end of life as well as support for those who are caring for the patient.
Will hospice care for my dad 24/7? Will I still need to take care of him?
Yes, you will always be his primary caregiver. Hospice can supplement that care to help share the responsibility of caregiving with regular visits and education from the hospice care team.
Is hospice only for people who are dying?
Hospice is for people who have a limited life expectancy. (Actually, we all have a limited life expectancy, so it is more specific than that.) Hospice is for patients whose condition is such that a doctor would not be surprised if the patient died within the next six months. This doesn't mean the patient is going to die in the next six months--it simply means that he or she has a condition that makes dying a realistic possibility.
Who is best suited for hospice care?
Is hospice only for housebound or bed-ridden people?
Hospice is not only for those who are housebound or bedridden; most are living their day-to-day lives. Care is given where ever the patient lives; in their home, long-term care facilities, assisted living or retirement communities, rest homes and hospitals.