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Hospice Care: What to Expect When Your Loved One is at Home
By Mark Katich, VITAS Healthcare General Manager

Mark KatichA main concern for most people faced with terminal illness is whether they’ll be able to die wherever they call “home.” Hospice care helps eliminate that worry, making it possible for people to spend their final moments of life in their preferred surroundings.

By definition, hospice is intended to help terminally ill people remain comfortable during the last six months of their lives. The care can be administered at the patient’s home, hospice inpatient units as well as hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities or residential care facilities.

When a loved one is receiving hospice care at home, these are the questions hospice providers are often asked:

How will pain be managed? Hospice is an end-of-life care option tailored to the needs of each patient and family. It includes expert pain management, but also goes beyond medical care, by providing emotional and spiritual support. The care is provided by interdisciplinary teams of palliative care experts, including physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, bereavement specialists and volunteers.

If the patient prefers to remain at home, what kind of assistance and in-home care will be available? Routine home care is available in accordance to the patient’s individualized plan of care. Continuous care, during a brief period of crisis, can be available for up to 24 hours a day. When patients or family members have questions or concerns after business hours, they can often get immediate answers and help by calling an after-hours service.

What is the role of family members when their loved one is on hospice care? Family members play an important role by providing personal care to their loved one when hospice teams are not present. The hospice team does not “take over,” rather they teach and support families so they can provide the best in-home care possible. Hospice teams realize that no one knows the patient better than their family.

What does hospice care cost? Does insurance cover it? Medicare pays for hospice services. Many states have established Medicaid coverage for hospice, and almost all private insurers and managed care plans provide coverage for hospice care as well.

For more information about end-of-life care visit www.VITAS.com or call 412-799-2101.

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