The disease came with little warning - fast-spreading cancer, devastating cells and tissue within a matter of mere weeks. There was no way to guard against it; there was no way to prepare; and you fear there's nothing left to do now but watch the symptoms grow, leaving your loved one in constant pain.
You're not alone in your grief - and you're also not without options. Hospice care instead provides the support, attention, and respite your loved one deserves, helping you both navigate the bereavement process. It provides comfort in times when it's most needed.
What is Hospice Care?
Hospice care is a specialized form of medical support. It's designed not to treat pain, but instead to manage it. Through a variety of services, it seeks to ease suffering and enhance overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These services include:
- Pain and Symptom Control
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech Therapy
- Medication Monitoring and Administration
- Homecare Assistance (including meal preparation, laundry, dusting, and similar chores)
- Personal Grooming Assistance (including bathing, shaving, and nail care)
- Companion and Volunteer Services
Hospice care helps individuals achieve a greater level of comfort during the final stages of their illnesses.
Who Qualifies for Hospice Care?
When considering hospice care, many families assume that it's only available to those with mere weeks to live. Many regard hospice care as a last resort. The truth, however, is that this option is instead for those in need of extended terminal care. Qualifying patients have:
Life expectancies of six-month or less, as determined by physicians
Note: patients living beyond their six-month diagnoses will not be immediately turned away from hospice care. Terminally-ill patients, depending on their private or Medicare policies, may instead have their benefits renewed. Eligibility will vary from individual to individual.
Voluntarily elect to no longer receive curative care, choosing instead to focus on pain management
Note: patients have the right to seek out curative care if they wish, opting to try new treatments, surgeries, or medications. They can later re-apply for hospice should these options fail to deliver any viable results.
These two qualifiers create a broad demographic of potential hospice beneficiaries, allowing those in need of care to receive it.
What are the Primary Reasons for Seeking Hospice Care?
Hospice care accommodates those suffering from extended, terminal illnesses. According to a study released by the National Hospice Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the most common forms of these diseases are:
- Cancer 36.6%
- Dementia: 14.8%
- Heart Disease: 14.7%
- Lung Disease: 9.3%
- Other: 8.3%
- Stroke or Coma: 6.4%
- Kidney Disease: 3.0%
- Non-ALS Motor Neuron: 2.1%
- Debility Unspecified: 1.9%
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): 0.4%
- HIV/Aids: 0.2%
Each of these illnesses causes unbearable pain and long-term symptoms. Management proves key, therefore, for every patient - and hospice delivers custom non-curative plans to best address each symptom.
How old are Hospice Care Patients?
Many misconceptions plague hospice care. Among the most common of these is the age qualifications of patients, with families assuming that only seniors may apply. The truth, however, is far different, as evidenced by the NHPCO. Their study highlights the wide demographic range of hospice recipients:
- Less than 24 Years Old: 0.5%
- 25 Years Old to 34 Years Old: 0.3%
- 35 Years Old to 64 Years Old: 15.3%
- 65 Years Old to 74 Years Old: 16.8%
- 75 Years Old to 84 Years Old: 26.0%
- 85 Years Old and Beyond: 41.1%
While many hospice patients are indeed seniors, the benefits extend to all age groups.
How Long do Most Patients Receive Hospice Care?
A six-month diagnosis is the standard of hospice care (although, re-enrolment is possible should individuals live beyond this diagnosis). The length of each service varies considerably, however, and NHPCO recently noted the length of most patient stays:
- Less Than 7 Days: 35.5%
- 9 to 14 Days: 14.8%
- 15 to 29 Days: 12.9%
- 30 to 89 Days: 17.8%
- 90 to 179 Days: 8.7%
- More Than 180 Days: 10.3%
These numbers translate to a 71.3-day average for 2014 (which is slightly slower than 2012's 71.8-day average and 2013's 72.6-day average).
How Much Does Hospice Care Cost?
Countless services define hospice, with every patient requiring specific treatment, support, and solutions. Because of this, calculating a standard cost proves difficult - with too many factors (including insurance plans, length of care, and government aid) influencing the numbers. Debt.org, however, recently estimated the amount Medicaid and Medicare spend each year on patients.
Routine Home Care: $102 per day, per patient. Continuous Home Care: $595 per day, per patient. In-Patient Respite Care: $110 per day, per patient. General In-Patient Care: $453 per day, per patient.
Routine Home Care: $143.63 per day, per patient. Continuous Home Care: $855.79 per day, per patient. In-Patient Respite Care: $151.67 per day, per patient. General In-Patient Care: $625.27 per day, per patient.
Individual costs will vary widely, depending on co-payment requirements and financial aid. Those considering hospice care should consult with their insurance agents or the Medicaid and Medicare offices. Consultation will ensure that all policy options are adequately explained.
How Does Hospice Care Benefit Families?
The emotional and physical tolls of illness extend beyond those who are sick. Instead families share these burdens, straining beneath constant pain, stress, and uncertainty. Hospice care helps to alleviate those symptoms.
By providing patients with qualified nurses and physicians, it reduces the efforts of families - allowing them to focus on creating positive memories, rather than administering medication, changing linens, or bandaging wounds. It ensures a greater quality of life (and time) for all. It also provides essential bereavement support, connecting individuals to counselors, social workers, and other therapists. It promotes acceptance and helps individuals come to terms with the grieving process.
Through this, hospice helps families achieve a greater sense of peace. It stresses superior care for everyone - not just the patients.
Watching your loved one struggle with disease proves too much to bear. Hospice care relieves that struggling, however: providing constant, qualified support. Let trained medical professionals soothe the suffering and ensure easier days.