10 Facts You Need to Know About Hospice Care With VITAS
Hospice care is a simple concept that can be difficult to understand. Whether you’re a patient, family member or clinician who treats patients with terminal illnesses, having correct information about hospice services can help you make the best decisions about whether hospice care is appropriate.
These are some of the most important facts you should know about hospice care:
- Hospice manages multiple disease states. Hospice is for people with advanced illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, lung disease, liver disease, kidney disease, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and AIDS. Whatever the age, culture, beliefs or diagnosis of patients or loved ones, VITAS can help if they have a serious progressive illness.
- Hospice can happen anywhere. Hospice is a service that comes to the patient, wherever the patient calls home. That can be a private residence, a nursing home, an inpatient setting, an assisted living community, etc. Patients at home feel better, surrounded by the faces and things they know and love.
- Hospice is an option. Once they are on hospice care, patients can leave or “revoke” their hospice status at any time for any reason. Patients can also return to hospice at any time, as long as they meet eligibility guidelines.
- Patients can continue with medications and treatments while on hospice. Hospice patients can continue treatments that relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. For example: patients with advanced lung disease whose inhaler therapy allows them to breathe better can continue on inhaler therapy with hospice. If you’re a patient with questions about specific medications or therapies, talk to the clinician who conducts your evaluation before going on hospice services. If you’re a clinician with questions about hospice care plans, call VITAS for guidance.
- Hospice provides medications related to the patient's diagnosis to control specific symptoms. In fact, hospice physicians prescribe the lowest effective dose of medications—from anti-inflammatory pain relievers to opioids— to alleviate symptoms, stabilize the patient and provide the most comfort. Morphine can control pain and shortness of breath, but not every patient needs it.
- Hospice care is usually provided by family caregivers, with support from the hospice team. When hospice is provided in a private home, licensed clinicians come to the home rather than have the patient go to a physician’s office. Family or friends take on the role of primary caregivers, supported by a professional hospice team that includes a nurse, hospice aide, social worker, physician, chaplain and others, as needed. The team makes regularly scheduled visits, and trains and educates family caregivers. For patients in an assisted living community or nursing home, the hospice team provides additional care that complements the care they are already receiving.
- There is no limit to the time a patient can be on hospice. Hospice is for patients who are expected to live six months or less. But hospice can be extended if the patient remains appropriate. Several studies show that, in many cases, patients who receive hospice services live longer than hospice-appropriate patients who do not receive hospice. In surveys, family members often tell us: "We wish we had known about hospice sooner."
- Hospice provides home medical equipment and supplies. Hospice provides equipment and supplies, such as shower chairs, hospital beds, incontinence supplies and more. Having free equipment and supplies readily available is convenient and can improve quality of life for the patient and caregivers.
- Hospice cares for the family. The VITAS team addresses emotional and spiritual pain suffered by loved ones. In fact, bereavement support for the family continues for more than a year after the death.
- 99%+ of hospice patients do not have any out-of-pocket expenses. Medicare, Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) and most private insurance plans cover hospice 100%, including home visits, medications, supplies and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis. If a patient is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Original Medicare will still cover the cost of hospice care.
Need more information on hopsice care? Call 1.800.582.9533.