Chapter 12: Hospice Care

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There may come a time in the final stages of your loved one’s life that she is ill and no longer responds to medical care, or where medical intervention would cause more suffering than could be justified by any improvement in her condition.

At this point it would be wise to think about hospice care. Hospice is very much a part of the care process, a continuation of what you have been doing all along–assuring that your loved one gets the best care possible for whatever her stage of life and health.

Hospice care is limited to those who are judged by medical professionals to be at the end of their lives. The purpose is to eliminate or at least control pain and suffering. Hospice care professionals assist the patient with the emotional and spiritual aspects of death as well.

The Medicare rules governing hospice care prohibit payment for treatments aimed at prolonging life, rather than simply making life more endurable.

Hospice care can be administered in a variety of settings. Nursing homes frequently offer hospice care, as do many hospitals. Around the country, hundreds of residences or hospice houses that look much like family homes care for half a dozen or more patients. But most hospice patients are cared for in their own homes. There they are visited by hospice care teams that could consist of a hospice physician, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, trained volunteers, and therapists. Help, although not all of the specialists named, is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Fortunately, Medicare covers most of the costs of care provided by an accredited hospice agency.

Start your search for a hospice agency by asking your mother’s physician for recommendations. Other helpful sources are geriatric care managers and such Internet websites as About.com. Also call the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Help Line at 800-658-8898.

Your mother’s decline over a long period of time has likely exhausted and depressed you. But while she was alive, the necessity of using your body and mind to sustain hers kept you going. Now you have only grief and emptiness. In Chapter 14 we will talk about bereavement and how you and your family can go through it and emerge closer and stronger.

Review additional chapters of Stages of Senior Care:

Previous: Chapter 11: Skilled Nursing Homes  
Next: Chapter 13: Funeral Services