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Hospice Care: A Valuable and Underused Resource

Having a family member or loved one with a long-term or life ending illness can be a very trying experience for everyone involved. These situations often require specialized care that family members are not qualified to provide. One care option that many families must eventually choose is hospice. Patients who enter into this type of care usually have six months or less to live and are often referred for care by their physician.

People must understand that the hospice care service focus of hospice care is providing comfort for the patient, not a cure. A patient’s needs are addressed at every level; beginning with physical comfort, pain relief and management of any other symptoms they may be experiencing. Other primary concerns include the patient’s emotional and spiritual needs. A large part of a patient’s illness involves their family members. Family and friends are also affected by a long-term illness so their needs are also considered part of this type of care. Many facilities will offer education and support services for the patient’s family members as well.

It is important for people to know that not all hospice providers are the same. This is an important point to consider when someone is trying to make the difficult decision to put a loved one into this type of care. All certified providers are required to provide a basic level of care, but providers can vary greatly when it comes to the quality and quantity of the services that are provided. While many patients receive this type of care in their home these services are also provided in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult foster care facilities. Many providers will have written agreements with area hospitals and nursing homes that allow them to provide services.

Any hospice provider should have a non-discrimination policy. Every person deserves the same care and treatment at the end of their life regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age, financial status or political affiliation. Every patient should be accepted into this type of care if it is medically necessary. It is important for family members to be aware of their insurance coverage. In most states there is coverage available either through private insurance or by Medicare or Medicaid. It is always a good idea to know a person’s coverage ahead of time so that the family does not have to deal with financial issues during such a difficult time.

It is possible that a person who is in this type of care can be returned to regular medical treatment if they are showing signs of improvement. If a person’s medical condition seems to be improving or showing signs of remission they can be discharged from the specialized care and return either to aggressive therapy or their normal life. If there is a need for the patient to return most insurance companies will offer additional coverage for the patient.