Frequently Asked Questions
What is hospice?
Hospice care involves a core interdisciplinary team of professionals and volunteers who provide medical, psychological and spiritual support for the terminally ill and assistance to their families. Hospice care revolves around the importance of advocating the needs of the terminally ill. Hospice care neither hastens death nor prolongs life, but strives to make death a natural part of life.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of our patients, their families, and our community by providing quality hospice care with compassion and experience. We embrace these guiding values as established by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:
- Respect, trust, and inclusion
- Business ethics and integrity
- Service excellence
- Innovation and adaptability
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Financial stewardship and accountability
Who refers patients to hospice?
The contact to Hospice Care of the Southwest may be initiated by a medical professional, community agent, friend, family member, or the patient. It can begin with a call to our office. A hospice admission nurse will consult with the patient, family and primary care physician to assess whether hospice care is appropriate and desired upon receiving a request for services.
When should a decision about entering hospice be made? Who should make it?
The earlier you call, the more we can do to help you. At any time during a life-limiting illness, it's appropriate to discuss all of a patient's care options, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Hospice staff members are always available to discuss this decision with the patient, family and physician.
Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice?
The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professionals, clergy or friends.
What does the hospice admission process involve?
One of the first things hospice will do is contact the patient's physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for the patient at this time. Consent forms will be signed by the patient and/or caregiver. The hospice election form reads that the patient understands that the care is palliative (aimed at pain relief and symptom control) rather than curative. It also outlines the services available.
What is meant by Interdisciplinary Hospice Team?
The hospice team consists of the following: Physicians, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, social workers, home health aides, trained hospice volunteers, and providers of spiritual care and bereavement support. An individual plan of care is developed by the team and evaluated regularly to assure quality care is provided. Family members and patients are invited to schedule times to meet with the team to facilitate communication.
What does it mean when hospice talks about a primary caregiver?
A primary caregiver is someone who will monitor the patient’s care, administering medications, providing meals and meeting the personal care needs of the patient.
Is the home the only place hospice care can be delivered?
No. Although most hospice services are delivered in a personal residence, assisted living centers and nursing facilities are “home” to many of our patients. We provide care to the patient wherever they are – whether they are at home or in a facility.
How many family members or friends does it take to care for a patient at home?
There's no set number. One of the first things a hospice team will do is prepare an individualized care plan that will, among other things, address the amount of care giving a patient needs. Hospice staff members visit regularly and are also always accessible by phone to answer questions and provide supportive care.
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. Volunteer services may be available to coordinate with family members and friends to provide additional support.
What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?
A team of physicians, nurses, social workers, home health aides, as well as spiritual care and bereavement specialists care for hospice patients. Each provides assistance based on his or her area of expertise. The work of these compassionate professionals is supplemented by a wonderful team of well-trained volunteers who add their touch to benefit hospice patients and their caregivers. In addition, hospice helps provide medications, supplies and equipment related to the terminal illness of the patient.
Can a hospice patient who makes significant improvement return to regular treatment?
If improvement in the condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice. If a discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance allow additional coverage for this purpose.
Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Hospice does nothing to speed up or slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, so hospice provides its supportive presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
How does hospice help manage the pain of a patient?
Hospice nurses and doctors are up-to-date on the latest medications and techniques to treat pain and offer symptom relief. The success rate for hospices in battling pain is very high. Most patients can attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them and their caregivers. Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain is just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it addresses these as well. Members of the spiritual care and bereavement teams are available to assist family members as well as patients.
Is it true that only cancer patients can receive hospice care?
Although approximately 60 percent of the patients admitted to hospice programs throughout the nation have conditions related to cancer, other common diagnoses include heart and lung disease, AIDS, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's disease, and other life-limiting diseases.
Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what's happening?
This is usually not the case. It is the goal of hospice to help patients be as comfortable and alert as they desire by continuing to consult with the patient and caregivers. Hospices have been very successful in reaching this goal.
Is hospice affiliated with any religious organization?
Hospice care is not an offshoot of any religion. Hospice Care of the Southwest serves a broad community and accepts patients without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, disability, age, gender, creed, or sexual orientation.
Is hospice care covered by insurance?
Hospice coverage is widely available. It is a benefit provided by Medicare, Medicaid and many private health insurance policies. The hospice social worker can help a patient explore their benefit options.
If the patient is eligible for Medicare, will there be any additional expenses to be paid?
Medicare covers services, medications, medical equipment, and supplies for the palliation and management of the patient’s terminal illness, according to the hospice plan of care.
Does hospice provide help to the family after the patient dies?
Hospice Care of the Southwest provides continuing contact and support for family and friends for thirteen months following the death of the patient. Bereavement support is provided through phone contacts, printed materials, and memorial services. Presentations are offered during the fall each year to help the bereaved better cope with holidays and special days. Throughout the year, Hospice Care of the Southwest sponsors grief support groups for “our families” as well as anyone in the community who has experienced the death of a family member or friend.
Did our loved one have to receive hospice care for us to utilize the bereavement services?
Our bereavement program is available to anyone in the community who is mourning a death. Grief support groups are held throughout the year. Call our hospice office to inquire about our bereavement program. Or, visit the Bereavement Support section of this website for additional information.
What do volunteers do for hospice?
Volunteers do many things! There are opportunities for them to work in the home or facility setting with patients and caregivers. Some volunteers help with administrative duties in the office. Others make phone calls to our bereaved or to the caregivers of our patients. Go to the section of our website called Volunteering for Hospice to learn more.
Can the family reach hospice staff during the night and weekends, if necessary?
A team member from hospice can be reached at all times, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by simply calling our office. After office business hours, our answering service will put you in touch with our staff members who are on-call and available to assist you.
Adapted from the American Cancer Society brochure,
Hospice: A Special Kind of Care