What is Hospice?

June 7, 2010
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Hospice Care is designed to give supportive care to people in the final phase of a terminal illness. The focus of hospice care is comfort and quality of life, rather than a cure. The goal is to enable patients to be comfortable and free of pain, so that they live each day as fully as possible. Aggressive methods of pain control may be used.

Hospice programs generally are home-based, but they sometimes provide services away from home in freestanding facilities, in nursing homes, or within hospitals. The philosophy of hospice is to provide support for the patient’s emotional, social, and spiritual needs as well as medical symptoms as part of treating the whole person.

Hospice programs generally use a multidisciplinary team approach, including the services of a nurse, doctor, social worker and clergy in providing care.

Additional services provided include:

  • drugs to control pain and manage other symptoms
  • physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • medical supplies and equipment
  • medical social services
  • dietary and other counseling
  • continuous home care at times of crisis
  • bereavement services.

Volunteers are trained to help with everyday tasks, such as shopping and personal care services, like bathing and dressing.

A family member or other person who cares for you will be with you every day and members the hospice team will make regular visits. A nurse and doctor are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to give you and your family support and care when needed. If you should need care in a hospital for your illness, the hospice team will arrange for your stay.

Even though a doctor is part of the hospice team, you can choose to use your regular doctor, who is not a part of the hospice, to get care. The hospice will work closely with your regular doctor to give you the care you need.

How do I Obtain Hospice Care?

Patients are usually referred to hospice when their life expectancy is approximately six months or less.  While patients must have a doctor’s referral to enter hospice, the patient, family and friends can initiate the process by contacting a local hospice program.

What to Expect in the Initial Process

Before providing care, hospice staff meets with the patient’s personal physician(s) and a hospice physician to discuss patient history, current physical symptoms and life expectancy. After an initial meeting with physicians, hospice staff meets with both the patient and their family. They discuss the hospice philosophy, available services and expectations.

Prior to service, staff and patients also discuss pain and comfort levels, support systems, financial and insurance resources, medications and equipment needs. A “plan of care” is developed for the patient. This plan is regularly reviewed and revised according to patient condition.

Who Pays for Hospice?

Hospice care is a covered benefit under Medicare for patients with a prognosis of 6 months or less. A patient can remain in hospice care beyond six months if a physician re-certifies that the patient is terminally ill.

Nearly all states and the District of Columbia offer hospice coverage under Medicaid.

Many private health insurance policies and HMO’s offer hospice coverage and benefits. Hospice services are covered for military families under Tricare.

How Do I Find a Hospice Care Provider?

To locate a hospice provider in New York State visit the following website: http://www.nyhealth.gov/facilities/hospice/providers.htm

The following Hospice Care Providers service Nassau County:

  1. Calvary Home Health Agency and Hospice Care-718-518-2465
  2. Comprehensive Community Hospice of Parker Jewish Geriatric -516-586-1690
  3. Good Shepherd Hospice-631-474-4040
  4. Hospice Care Network-516-832-7100

The following Hospice Care Providers service Suffolk County:

  1. Brookhaven Memorial Hospice-631-631-687-2960
  2. East End Hospice-631-288-8400
  3. Good Shepherd Hospice-631-474-4040
  4. Visiting Nurse Services of Suffolk-631-930-9399

Where Can I learn more about Hospice Care?

  1. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization-703-837-1500 or visit their website at http://www.nhpco.org
  2. The Foundation of America – 800-854-3402 or visit their website at http://www.hospicefoundation.org
  3. Medicare-1-800-633-4227 or visit their website at http://www.medicare.gov
  4. Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State -518-446-1483 or visit their website at http://www.hpcanys.org

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