Hospice Can Help:Evaluating End-of-Life Care Options

If you or a loved one were facing a terminal illness, would you know where to turn for information about end-of-life care?

Every year, half of the American population will be touched by the death of a friend, family member or colleague. Hospice providers across the country are united in urging all adults, regardless of age or circumstance, to learn more about end-of-life care options that can transform dying into the final act of living well.

“There are four general questions that should be explored before one is touched by the unsettling reality of a terminal prognosis,” explains Ann Klein, RN, VITAS patient care administrator in New Jersey North. They are:

1.    How will pain be managed?
2.    If the patient prefers to remain at home, what kind of assistance and in-home care will be available?
3.    What role can family members have in patient care?
4.    How will the spiritual and emotional support necessary for quality end-of-life care be administered?

“Hospice is an end-of-life care option that answers all four questions,” Klein says. “Tailored to the needs of each patient and family, hospice provides care to patients diagnosed with a terminal illness. It includes expert pain management, but also goes beyond medical care, providing emotional and spiritual support that most Americans believe is an important aspect of end-of-life care.”

Hospice care is provided by a multi-disciplinary care team comprised of doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy, and trained volunteers. Hospice care typically is provided in the home, allowing the patient to stay in a familiar setting surrounded by family and friends. “Home” is loosely defined, so terminally ill residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities can receive hospice care without having to consider moving.

Medicare, Medicaid and most private health insurance plans provide coverage for hospice services. The Medicare Hospice Benefit is an all-inclusive benefit and includes coverage for physician services, nursing care, home medical equipment and medical supplies, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications related to the patient’s terminal illness, counseling, spiritual support and bereavement support for the patient’s loved ones. Patients and their families receive all benefits without any additional co-pays or ancillary payments.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Robin Marshall, General Manager of VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of New Jersey North. For more information about hospice, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.nhpco.org, or call VITAS at 973-994-4738.