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Everything You Need to Know About Hospice CARE - Misconceptions and More
By Daniel Casciato

During a terminal illness, your physician may tell you or loved one that treatments to cure or slow down your disease are no longer working. Or you may instruct your physician to end those treatments. Patients often choose this route because they want relief from pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms so they can better focus on their loved ones and other things they care about. That's when hospice care, or end-of-life care, may help.

One of the biggest misconceptions of hospice care is that you're within days or hours of death when hospice is consulted. That’s not true, says Tiffany Scott, RN, a Clinical Care Coordinator with Gateway Hospice.

“Another popular one is that hospice care comes in and starts morphine and then the patient dies,” she says. “Or if you go on hospice, they think you are going to take away all of their medications and they will have to give up on the doctors who know them.”

All of those statements are just myths, she says.

“A patient would qualify for hospice when a physician reviews their record and determines that the disease is terminal, or in other words, that if the patient's disease would take its normal course, the patient's prognosis would be six months or less,” Scott says.

Hospice and palliative care both offer compassionate care to patients with terminal illnesses.

“All hospices do care that is palliative in nature, meaning that it is for comfort,” says Scott. “Palliative Care is a specific program that you are able to still continue to get limited treatments and care that is not curative, but for comfort. Often times there is a co-pay involved in the palliative program.”

It would be considered a good time to call hospice care when your physician determines that your loved one is no longer a good candidate for aggressive treatment.

“It’s also a good time to consider hospice when simply the hassle of going for appointments and further aggressive testing and procedures are more trouble than it is helpful to them,” adds Scott.

In addition, when your loved one has repeated hospitalizations and wishes to be treated at home rather than go out, it may be a good time to consult hospice, notes Scott.

Families of patients with progressive dementia would want to consult hospice when the patient has medical complications of dementia including unintentional weight loss, trouble swallowing, or infections. If your loved one is diagnosed with metastatic cancer and is not a good candidate for curative treatment or chooses not to get curative treatment, it would also be a good time to call hospice.

One common question patients and their families often have about hospice is who is on the hospice team and how often will they come? According to Scott, your hospice team would include a team of physicians, a nurse case manager, LPN's, aides, social workers, chaplains and volunteers.

"The frequency of visits is determined by each individual patient's plan of care,” she explains. “While hospice care is not live-in caregivers, we do provide a large amount of support at the end of life and if live-in caregivers or any other community resources are needed social services can assist you in coordinating those resources.”

Another common concern is whether hospice would be available after hours if you need them.

“Yes,” says Scott. “Our hospice has an on call team with nurses ready to be dispatched to serve patients in needs.”

The hospice care team continuously monitors the patient's health and improvements and declines. If the patient were to stabilize or their health would improve there could be a chance they are no longer eligible for hospice services, but if that were to happen our team would work intensely with the family for safe discharge planning.

“You have a choice when to begin hospice services,” says Scott. “You do not have to go with who they are referred to, you have a right to choose and I encourage everyone to research hospices before they make a choice.”

For more information, visit https://gatewayhospice.com/

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