Hospice 101

What is Hospice?

The hospice philosophy recognizes every person deserves to live out his or her life with respect and dignity, alert and free of pain, in an environment that promotes quality of life.  From its beginnings, hospice has focused on the whole person - body, mind and spirit - with an understanding that serious illness profoundly impacts not only the patient, but family and loves ones as well. Over the years, the medical community has come to embrace hospice for bringing quality end-of-life services into the home, wherever home may be.  Now, with the support of hospice professionals and volunteers, individuals may maintain control over their end-of-life choices and do so knowing hospice will support the patient and family in a multitude of ways.


What Makes Hospice Care Unique?

Hospice care centers around the patient and family.  The goal of the professional hospice team is to empower you to make your own choices with its support and assistance.  The team serves as your advocates, helping you to access the information and resources you need during this very challenging time. In addition to providing the care directly, hospice team members serve as teachers, enabling the family to care for their loved one at home.  Hospice recognizes that the family and caregivers need an extra measure of support both during and after their experience of caring for a terminally ill patient.


Who is Eligible for Hospice?

Hospice serves patients with a terminal illness resulting in a life expectancy of six months or less, as determined by the patient's physician.  Care is provided regardless of diagnosis, age, gender, nationality, race, creed, sexual orientation, disability or ability to pay.  The patient makes the decision to choose hospice in partnership with his or her family physician and the hospice team, after a thorough review of all the care options.


When is it Time for Hospice?

When the goal of treatment begins to shift from curing the illness to providing comfort, it is time to consider hospice.  This time may come well before a physician indicates the patient's life expectancy is six months or less.  Sadly, many people wait until their final days to involve hospice.  By contacting hospice early in the diagnosis, the patient and family reserve time to understand their options and choose the path that will have the most positive impact on quality of life.  The best time to learn about hospice is before you need it.


Why Should We Choose Hospice?

The decision to choose hospice is a very personal one.  It directly involves the patient, family, physician and any loved ones who may serve as caregivers.  Here are a few things you should consider.  Hospice's expertise in palliative care assures the patient of state-of-the-art pain control and symptom management.  Hospice enables patients to focus on living their remaining days to the fullest, at home, among family and friends.  This emphasis on family involvement - understanding that everyone's definition of family is unique - helps individuals support each other during this difficult time of life.


Where is Hospice Care Provided?

The majority of hospice patients live in their own home with the help of a family member or friend serving as the primary caregiver.  This caregiver works closely with the hospice team to provide for the patient's daily needs.  In nursing homes or assisted living facilities, hospice teams create a partnership with the staff and family, just as they would with the family in the home. In addition to home care, hospice provides short-term inpatient hospital care to manage the symptoms of illness or to give the family a brief rest from the responsibilities of caregiving.  During these times, the hospice team remains involved and helps the patient transition back to the home environment as quickly as possible.


How is Hospice Care Paid For?

Reimbursement for hospice services comes from Medicare, Medicaid, health maintenance organizations and other private insurance plans.  If you are unsure as to the nature of the hospice benefit available in your insurance plan, speak directly with your insurer or a hospice representative.


How Can I Find A Hospice Near Me?

The Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home has a complete and current listing of hospices within the state.  The Association can also provide you with the contact information for hospice organizations across the country in the event you are seeking help for a loved one living elsewhere. Hospice Programs & Services Hospice addresses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient, while attending to the equally important needs of the family and caregivers.  A team of hospice professionals and volunteers work cooperatively with the patient, family and the primary physician to provide hospice services appropriate to meet the patient's needs.


The following services are provided through hospice:

Physician Services who work together to oversee the medical services provided to the patient, approve the plan of care and ensure the high quality of care.
Nurses who specialize in pain management and symptom control, particularly for end-stage diseases.
Medical Equipment, Medical Supplies as appropriate to the patient's illness.
Medications for symptom control and pain relief.
Hospice/Home Health Aides and Homemakers who provide personal care and help with the activities of daily living.
Licensed Social Workers who assist the patient and family with emotional concerns, including bereavement, as well as access to supportive community resources.
Pastoral Counselors who serve people of all faiths, or of no religious faith, providing comfort and support when needed,  they also will facilitate contacts with community clergy as needed.
Bereavement Counselors who support the family and loved ones with support groups, one-on-one counseling and other service during the bereavement process.
Rehabilitation Therapists who can help improve the patient's quality of life.
Volunteers who have been trained to provide companionship and support the patient and family with the everyday challenges of life.