Understanding Hospice Care

You’ve heard the terms before: Hospice. Palliative Care. DNR.

But what do they mean? If your loved one is dying, you will need to make tough decisions about their end-of-life care. Here’s what you need to know about hospice care.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is provided to terminally ill patients who have six months or less to live. When treatment is no longer working, patients may choose to end life-prolonging treatment and focus on comfort.

A hospice program will provide pain relief, help with daily activities such as bathing and dressing, and counseling services if requested. Most patients receive hospice services at home, but hospice programs to also operate within skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and specialized hospice facilities.

For many terminally ill people and their families, hospice is a welcome reprieve from the often intense treatments they were undergoing. Making the decision to end treatment is a difficult decision, but one that offers comfort and calm to patients in their last days. Most people would prefer to die peacefully at home instead of hooked up to machines in a hospital, and that is what hospice offers its patients.

A DNR, or “do not resuscitate” order, is a document the patient or his guardian can sign to let his caregivers know he does not want to be revived if his heart stops. This is consistent with hospice’s philosophy of letting the patient die in peace. Some hospices will require a DNR at admission, and some will allow you to make your own choice.

Medicare covers many hospice programs, and private insurances also have hospice benefits. If you are considering hospice for your parent or loved one, check their coverage beforehand.

Palliative Care

Palliative care shares many similarities with hospice care. Palliative means relieving pain without curing the underlying condition. Patients on hospice receive a form of palliative care, where curative treatments are stopped and alleviating pain becomes the main focus.

Non-hospice palliative care is a layer of care given in addition to regular medical care. A palliative care team will work to improve patients’ quality of life while they’re undergoing treatment for serious illnesses.

Also called symptom management, palliative care is a holistic approach to care. Besides managing disease symptoms and treatment side effects, it also offers related psychological and spiritual care.

Patients can receive palliative care at home, in the hospital, or in a skilled nursing facility. Medicare and Medicaid cover palliative care as long as the patient meets certain criteria.

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