What is hospice?
Hospice is a program that provides care and services to people who are very ill or near the end of their life. It focuses on providing comfort and quality of life rather than treatments to prolong life. Hospice can reduce the pain, suffering, and stress that the person and his family may be feeling. Care is most often provided at a patient's home, but may also be provided in a hospice facility or hospital. Hospice services are available 24 hours a day, every day.
What else do I need to know about hospice?
- Patients receive expert medical care from doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains (spiritual counselors), therapists, and volunteers. A patient's primary doctors may also be involved in hospice care.
- Each patient's wishes and plans for medical care are followed. The patient will be asked to complete advance directives. Advance directives are legal documents that state the patient's wishes and plans for medical care. They can include living wills, medical directives, or do not resuscitate (DNR) orders. These documents are used if a patient is not able to make decisions for himself as his illness progresses.
- A patient can leave hospice and return at another time. A patient is free to change his mind and choose to receive life-prolonging therapies instead of hospice care.
- A hospice patient can be admitted to a hospital if a symptom cannot be managed by the hospice care team in the home setting. The patient may also be admitted to the hospital to give his caregiver a rest from the stress of providing care.
- Patients do not need a live-in caregiver to be in hospice. A patient who lives alone may receive additional support from hospice care providers.
What does hospice care include?
- Physical care is given to help ease the patient's symptoms, such as pain. This may be done using medicines or certain therapies. Equipment, beds, or other medical supplies may be provided to help care for the person.
- Emotional and psychological care is provided to help the patient, his family, and those close to him cope with their feelings and emotions. Patients and families may join support groups or meet others in similar situations.
- Respite care provides family and caregivers a break from providing care.
- Social support helps patients and family members manage changes affecting their everyday life. Healthcare workers will arrange services to address financial concerns, relationship changes, and practical concerns such as meals.
- Spiritual and cultural care considers the person's and family's religious beliefs and cultural practices. These may include doing a special ceremony or ritual, or following certain traditions.
How can family and friends be involved in hospice care?
Hospice care services may involve the patient's family, friends, or caregivers. Families and caregivers will be taught about the illness, its symptoms, and effects. They may help plan the patient's care and will be taught about treatments and side effects. They will also be taught how to care for the patient and what to do in certain situations. Hospice care services also make sure that the family and friends are taken care of, and that they understand and can cope with the person's condition. Hospice will provide counseling and emotional support to family members and caregivers after they lose their loved one.
When should I contact the patient's healthcare provider?
- The patient cannot or does not want to eat, drink, or take his medicine.
- The patient cannot make it to his next visit.
- The patient has new signs and symptoms since his last visit.
- You or the patient have questions or concerns about his condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care or call 911?
- The patient feels like hurting himself or someone else.
- The patient feels pain that is not relieved by pain medicine.
- The patient feels that he cannot cope with his condition.
- The patient has problems sleeping.
- The patient has shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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