A Message from Irene Whitener
1. What is hospice care?
Hospice is a philosophy of care. It treats the person rather than the disease and focuses on quality of life. It surrounds the patient and family with a team consisting of professionals who not only address physical distress, but emotional and spiritual issues as well. Hospice care is patient-centered because the needs of the patient and family drive the activities of the hospice team.
2. Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?
Doctors often wait for families to bring it up. This is part of the reason that people often receive hospice care so late in the process. If you think your loved one and family might benefit from the support of weekly home visits from staff who specialize in pain control and the easing of distress, ask your doctor if hospice might be something to consider now, or in the near future.
3. When is the best time to start hospice care?
Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier, that they needed the help much sooner than they received it. Research has shown that hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives. Families who receive hospice near the very end--just a few days to a week--have been shown to have a harder time adjusting during the bereavement period than do those whose loved one received hospice care for weeks and months prior. At Serenity HospiceCare, we specialize in caring for those in the last 6 months of life. If you wait to get hospice until the last few days or weeks of your loved ones life, you will not get the full benefit of having a team of specialists help you through the process. Hospice works best when there are months rather than days to establish relationships and provide support. If you choose hospice now, you can always change your mind at any time in the future.
4. Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?
Certainly. If the patient’s condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about their daily life. If the discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.
5. Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?
Our Serenity HospiceCare team will assess your needs, recommend any equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain any necessary equipment. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses.
6. Must someone be with the patient at all times?
In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally recommends someone be there continuously. While family and friends do deliver most of the care, hospices may have volunteers to assist with errands and to provide a break and time away for primary caregivers.
7. What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
Hospice patients are cared for by a team consisting of a physician, a nurse, social workers, spiritual care providers, and volunteers. Each one provides assistance based on his or her own area of expertise. In addition, as the hospice care provider, we will provide medications, supplies, equipment, and other services related to the terminal illness.
8. Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Our goal at Serenity HospiceCare is to help provide quality living in the last days of life. As specialists in the field, we never rush nor resist the natural dying process. Our expertise is in making you and/or your loved one feel at ease and at peace. It is about you and your family, you are unique and the care we provide is personalized for this part of the cycle of life.
9. Is caring for the patient at home the only place hospice care can be delivered?
No. Hospice patients receive care in their personal residences or nursing homes.
10. Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
Usually not. When patients have a legitimate need for pain medication, they do not become addicted and are typically comfortable and aware.
11. Isn't using hospice the same as "giving up"?
Not at all! This is one of the most common questions about hospice but it is actually a misconception. Although the patient’s condition may have reached a point that a cure is not likely, that does not mean there is nothing left to do. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her last month’s focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. In many situations, this is a very special time for a family. It becomes a time where families can have conversations that are long overdue or do some of those things that have been delayed or put off. It’s an opportunity to listen to family stories and a time to tie up loose ends. This time is precious and to honor it requires a lot of courage. Having a hospice team to walk through this with you makes all the difference.
12. Is hospice only for bed bound people?
Hospice is not only for those who are housebound or bedridden; most are living their day-to-day lives. Care is given wherever the patient lives; in their home, long-term care facilities, assisted living or retirement communities, rest homes and hospitals.
13. Is hospice care covered by insurance?
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, by Medicaid in 47 states, and by most private insurance providers. To be sure of coverage, families should, of course, check with their employer or health insurance provider.
View Medicare Hospice Benefits
14. If the patient is eligible for Medicare, will there be any additional expense to be paid?
The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the full scope of medical and support services for a life-limiting illness. Hospice care also supports the family and loved ones of the person through a variety of services. This benefit covers almost all aspects of hospice care with little to no expense to the patient or family. In the very rare instance that a service, medication or supply is required and is not covered, there is no need to worry. We will never bill you. Because we are a nonprofit organization, no one is or ever will be turned away for their inability to pay. All expenses for uninsured or underinsured patients are taken care of, all thanks to the generosity of our Serenity HospiceCare donors.
15. If the patient is not covered by Medicare or any other health insurance, will hospice still provide care?
The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any coverage they may not be aware of. In the very rare instance that a service, medication or supply is required and is not covered, there is no need to worry. We will never bill you. Because we are a nonprofit organization, no one is or ever will be turned away for their inability to pay. All expenses for uninsured or underinsured patients are taken care of, all thanks to the generosity of our Serenity HospiceCare donors.
16. Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?
The death of a loved one is one of the greatest losses that can occur. Grief is an emotion that can be painful and exhausting.
At Serenity HospiceCare, we understand, which is why we have a full time Bereavement Coordinator solely dedicated to helping the family members of our hospice patients make peace with this challenging part of life. And we will do so for up to a year following the death of a loved one.
It is our mission at Serenity to help all ages through the grief process and childhood grief is no exception. Carter’s Clubhouse is our nationally-recognized, award winning, FREE grief support group for children led by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Click here for more information on Carter’s Clubhouse