What is Hospice?

For those in need of long-term medical care, hospice care is often the most approachable option.

It’s important to note that this type of care can be administered in private homes, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities. As such, it is not a place, like a hospital, but a means of providing the specialized attention and other supportive services that individuals with long-term or life-limiting illnesses require.

This article explores the finer definitions of this type of long-term care and what it can offer to both patients and their families.

Wherever the Need Exists

Caregivers who provide hospice services are highly trained to provide both medical services and compassionate care. Individuals with a life-limiting condition such as a respiratory or cardiac condition, cancer, renal disease, paralysis, or dementia are eligible for this form of care. The services available are not limited by age or type of disease.

Some of the areas in which these caregivers are trained are:

• Palliative treatments and symptom management.
• Maintaining a high quality of life through integration of social and emotional needs of the patient and primary family or community.
• Assisting family or close friends who are involved in care-giving activities.
• Integrating spiritual and psychological considerations into a treatment plan.

In a sense, these dedicated specialists practice a holistic form of medical care, involving all aspects of a patient’s life in order to ensure that he or she experiences a high quality of life. It is often a preferred method of treatment for patients who have been offered a limited life expectancy due to illness, disorder or symptoms of advancing age.

While the latest treatment techniques and technology are readily employed, the manner of care is more personable than might be expected in a hospital setting. Family and friends are invited to be involved in treatment plans and strategies, and the patient is encouraged to enjoy a rich social, spiritual, and emotional quality of life.

Coverage, By All Means

While this type of care is primarily medical in nature, it represents a special case when insurance or care coverage is considered. Patients are typically referred to these services by a physician, and will submit a formal request for assessment. A representative, who will review their availability of coverage and explore every option or available source of support, visits the patient and their family. Should the patient not be covered for special care options, these representatives are armed with advanced understanding of the resources available, and can direct family to sources of support of which they may be unaware. If none of these sources can provide assistance to a patient, the care-giving firm may offer financial help from private charitable funds.

A Family of Caregivers

Individuals who elect to receive this type of care should know that it involves more than a single doctor or nurse. Instead, a care-giving community oversees the well-being and comfort of every patient. Doctors, nurses, therapists, counselors, spiritual caregivers, and even volunteers with the necessary skills all come together to care for a patient and his or her family.

Because pain is an accepted aspect of many life-limiting illnesses and conditions, the care-giving team is trained to offer comfort. Individuals who provide such care acknowledge that psychological and emotional pain are quite real, and treat these sources with the same compassion as they would physical suffering.

Often mislabeled as end-of-life care, this treatment option is available to individuals who may live for many years. The important criterion to consider is how limiting their condition is. While caregivers do ease the final months or weeks of many patients, they are also engaged to assist and enrich patients with long-term illnesses or conditions that limit ultimate life expectancy in a less immediate way. Hospice care is a compassionate form of healthcare that considers the whole of a patient, not simply their disease or limitation.

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