What is Hospice?
Unfortunately, the word most associated with “hospice” is “death.” At Transitions, if anyone asks us to describe hospice in one word, we would say that word is “living”. Hospice does not hasten death or prolong life. At Transitions Hospice, we focus on making every day a quality-filled, comfortable day. We want to support you in the goal of ensuring you or your loved one are able to focus on enjoying the present.
When is it Time for Hospice?
Hospice is for you or your loved one when curative treatments are no longer available or wanted and the life expectancy is six months or less. Although a six months or less diagnosis is required for admission, hospice care does not stop after six months. If a patient lives longer than 6 months after admission, hospice services remain as long as the patient still qualifies to continue receiving comfort focused care rather than curative treatment.
Who Qualifies for Hospice Care?
A patient qualifies for hospice when curative treatments are no longer available or wanted, and their life expectancy is determined to be six months or less by a physician. Often, the patient’s doctor will refer them to Transitions Hospice, and we go from there.
Although a six months or less diagnosis is required for admission, hospice care does not stop after six months. If a patient lives longer than 6 months after admission, hospice services remain as long as the patient wishes to continue receiving comfort-focused care rather than curative treatment.
Who Pays for Hospice Care?
Hospice is covered by Medicare/Medicaid, most private insurance benefits, as well as Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. Most of the time, there is no cost to the patient or the family under the Hospice Benefit. This benefit covers all medications, equipment and services related to the hospice diagnosis. That includes:
- Physician services
- Nursing care
- Certified nursing aides
- Durable medical equipment and supplies
- Spiritual, dietary and other counseling
- Trained volunteers
- Bereavement services
At Transitions, we strive to do a little extra for our patients. Beyond the benefits outlined above, we also provide our patients with:
- Help fill out Medicaid (Public Aid) applications
- Assist in finding community resources
- Discuss how the stress of a serious illness can change family dynamic
- Provide grief and bereavement support
- Assist in planning a private memorial service
The Four Levels of Hospice Care
1. Routine Care
Routine Home Care is the most basic level of hospice care. In this stage, care teams serve the patients wherever they reside. The team includes registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, certified nurses aides, social workers, volunteers, physicians, dietitians, and chaplains, and offers a comprehensive plan of care that is tailored to each patient’s needs. Medications and medical equipment will be brought directly to the patient or caregiver, and our care team will develop a plan of care and visit frequently to meet the patient’s needs.
2. Continuous Hospice Care
In this level of care, a nurse or certified nursing aide (CNA) will remain at bedside for as long as the patient qualifies for continuous care. When the patient is experiencing symptoms that cause severe pain and require frequent interventions, such as medication administration, the patient will qualify for this level of care. The goal of continuous care is to get a patient’s symptoms under control to a point where they are manageable with routine hospice care. Continuous care is important because it allows the patient to remain at home through a difficult time instead of being uprooted into a hospital.
Some examples of acute conditions that may require continuous hospice care include: uncontrolled pain, trouble breathing, extreme nausea, changes in consciousness, and seizures.
3. Inpatient Care
When symptoms require an advanced level of care that is beyond routine hospice or continuous care, a patient will enter the “inpatient” level of hospice. This often occurs when the patient needs 24-hour pain control or acute or complex symptom management that cannot be provided at home. In its entirety, the goal of inpatient care is to control severe pain and symptoms so that the patient can return home to familiar surroundings and continue with routine hospice care. This level of care can be provided within a skilled nursing facility or any facility contracted to operate an inpatient unit.
4. Respite Care
The fourth level of hospice care is respite care, where a home hospice patient is admitted into a facility for a short period of time. The goal of this care is to provide a short-term break for family caregivers who are assisting a loved one with an advanced illness. These services can be offered at any hospital, hospice facility, or skilled nursing facility that is able to provide 24-hour care. It is essential that those taking care of loved ones are able to take breaks and avoid “caregiver burnout”. These “breaks” can last up to 5 days and plans for respite care are developed directly with family members of the patient.
We treat our patients’ physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. Transitions Hospice will spend the extra time needed to educate and guide our patients and their families with difficult decisions. Each of our dedicated teams include a physician, registered nurse, advanced practice nurse, certified nurse aides, social services, a chaplain, dietitian, bereavement specialist and trained volunteers.
When you call Transitions Hospice to get services started, we are always available to meet with you and your family the same day…7 days a week, 365 days a year. That meeting will be devoted to thoroughly answering any questions you may have, including the question of what is hospice. We take all the time you need to feel comfortable with the decision to bring hospice on board. We discuss patient history, expectations, comfort levels, support systems, medications, equipment needs and more.
We also help you understand our motto and the philosophy that guides our every decision at all levels of the organization. We commit to putting our patient’s well-being, comfort and serenity at the forefront of every decision we make. We urge you to ask lots of questions so that you can take advantage of the range of services that we offer to enable you to meet your goal of embracing the time left to the fullest.
Our staff fully embraces our three commandments, committing themselves to the demands of the highest quality home hospice and palliative care.