What, exactly, is hospice?
It’s a gift to terminal patients and their families. And it makes the last days of life easier for both.
Hospice is a team-approach to caring for people in the end stage of terminal illness, allowing them to die with dignity. There’s an emphasis on compassion for the patient, and support for the family.
Hospice teams typically include medical directors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, counselors, and trained volunteers who can provide services such as hairdressing or running errands. (In one case I know of, however, a team included a music therapist who played the patient’s favorite songs.)
Your loved one will have to qualify… you’ll need a doctor’s statement saying that the patient is not expected to live more than six months. At that point, the focus of medical treatment changes from cure to comfort, pain relief, and the dying process.
Hospice care focuses on “dying well.” Team members help patients and families plan the end of life, deal with emotions like fear and grief, and reach closure on issues important to the patient. And they also help ensure compliance with the patient’s advance directives.
If you’re a caregiver for a dementia patient, the time to explore hospice is now – before the need arises. And before you may have to deal with availability (of beds) issues. Discuss hospice criteria with your loved one’s doctor to determine his/her willingness to certify a patient for a program. And if you sense hesitation, don’t be afraid to think about finding another doctor.
HOW TO PAY
Medicare covers hospice for qualified patients. In fact, most programs are designed to meet Medicare and National Hospice Association guidelines.
Medicare guidelines include incontinence, and/or the inability to communicate verbally, walk without assistance, or bathe or dress without help. In addition, a patient must have experienced one or more other problems on their list.
If your loved one is exhibiting signs of end-stage Alzheimer’s, call the doctor about hospice. (Surprisingly, some dementia patients actually improve in hospice… enough to return home!)
WHEN TO CALL
Some families contact hospice programs too late to realize the full benefits. Hospice team members often hear “I wish we’d contacted you sooner.” That’s why good communication with doctors – or an Elder Law attorney – is important.
At The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld & Associates, we can help you with decisions like this. We’re Elder Law attorneys. And over the past 33 years, we’ve helped thousands of South Florida families deal with questions such as these… as well as estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, asset protection, and issues with Medicaid or the VA.
We’ll walk you through the Elder Care Journey with professionalism, with compassion, and, if you need it, with a soft shoulder.
And we’re just a phone call away.