Hospice is a service that comes to wherever the person is living and delivers compassionate specialized care when there is a prognosis of six months or less to live. The philosophy and focus is on enriching every person’s life, no matter how limited the time. The hospice staff are experts at managing pain and other symptoms, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Hospice services are a tremendous source of strength and support in helping the person and their family find comfort, peace, and understanding during the natural process of dying.
Anyone who chooses to enroll in hospice services at home must have their own personal primary caregiver on site. This is usually a family member, trusted friend, or hired private-duty help, if affordable. Hospice does not routinely provide around-the-clock care giving. They visit on a regular basis as needs dictate. Visits are made by nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, physicians, and volunteers. A nurse is “on-call” 24/7.
Hospice is not just for the elderly or people with cancer, but also for any person nearing the end of their life from any illness that is rapidly progressing.
A hospice agency will go to wherever their patient calls home. It could be in a person’s own home, a relative’s home, a friend’s home, a nursing home, an assisted living center, or in a community-supported home for end-of-life care (which will be the first of its kind in York County). The hospice agency will travel to any urban or rural location within their designated region.
A person qualifies for hospice care once his or her physician considers their survival to be six months or less of life (if the disease runs its expected course.) The most helpful benefits of hospice are achieved when a person can receive these special services for at least 3 months prior to dying. On average, people are only enrolled in hospice care for approximately 18 days. Statistics from The National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) reveal that 35% of hospice patients receive care for 7 days or fewer! Sadly, late referrals leave little time to prepare. There are so many good things that can be accomplished for both the person and their family if given the proper time to do so.
The decision to accept hospice care is deeply personal and different for everyone. Many people, including physicians, struggle with addressing the topic and have difficulty initiating the conversation. It is a time of truth and soul searching for everyone involved.
When the treatment of an illness begins to feel like a heavy burden and the benefits of it are being questioned the person may begin to shift their energies and make decisions and plans for how they want to live a life of quality with their remaining time. Hospice can guide this process and help the person create moments and memories of enduring significance and meaning. It is always an act of courage and faith to allow the physical processes which are occurring to unfold in a natural order.
More and more people are having conversations about end-of-life wishes prior to illness or old age. Efforts are underway in every community to educate the public about choices in end-of-life care. You are encouraged to become familiar with Advanced Directives, The Five Wishes, or The Conversation Project.
Currently there are 13 hospice agencies to choose from in our area. Several of them have local offices in York. Certain agencies deliver the majority of their care in the home environment, while other agencies focus on delivering care in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home.
Every person has the right to select their own hospice provider. Recommendations may come from their physician, a discharge planner at the hospital, a family member who had a prior positive experience with a particular hospice provider, or a friend. Regardless, it is always a personal choice.
Referrals can be initiated by anyone. Once the referral phone call is made, the agency selected will properly follow through and help you and your family determine if it is the right time for hospice care.
Costs for hospice services are covered and reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, and other private health insurance plans.
Before enrolling with a specific agency it is best to interview more than one and compare the information you receive. Your intuitive feelings will be your guide in discerning whether their services are right for you or your loved one.