What is Hospice?
Hospice care is intended to provide enhanced quality of life for people who are facing the last months of their lives. It seeks to offer comfort and support so that individuals diagnosed with a life-limiting illness can achieve peace of mind in the ways that matter to them. When at all possible, the care is provided at the person’s home or wherever he or she is most comfortable.
Immediately, patients are connected to a team of specialists who strive to uplift the person in body, mind, and spirit. They also embrace the family in their efforts, knowing that the prospect of death affects more than just an individual. The team can include a physician, nurse, nursing assistant, social worker, chaplain, counselor, and volunteer, among others.
Hospice Care Guidelines
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are a joint government agency that oversees the Medicare Hospice Benefit (MHB). This set of guidelines spells out how hospice care is provided. For example, a patient is deemed eligible for hospice care if he or she has an advanced illness, is expected to live less than six months if the illness runs a normal course, and wants to focus on quality of life rather than curative treatments.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit typically covers all aspects of care related to the hospice diagnosis, including counseling, medications, equipment, supplies, and certain therapies.
A hospice physician directs the patient’s care and can work with the patient’s personal physician if the patient chooses. The doctors, along with the whole hospice team, create a plan of care specially tailored to the patient and the particulars of his or her disease progression. This plan is designed to offer optimal quality of life.
Should a patient outlive the initial 6-month period of eligibility, the Medicare Hospice Benefit allows for additional benefit periods. As part of a re-evaluation, the doctor needs to indicate that the patient continues to have a life expectancy of less than 6 months.
On occasion, some patients improve to the point that they are expected to live longer. Should that happen, the patient may be discharged from hospice care. Similarly, if the condition worsens again, the patient may re-enroll in the program. Moreover, a patient may remove himself or herself from hospice care at any time if he or she wants to seek curative treatments or opt for different care providers.
The Choice is Yours
As with most types of health care, patients have the freedom to choose which hospice provider they would like to care for them. Just because a hospice operates in your county of residence doesn’t mean that you are required to use it. You should choose the provider that offers the best care for your diagnosis and that makes you feel comfortable. Location is a consideration, but there are many other criteria to evaluate, including special programs, veterans care, weekend admissions, national accreditation, and overall reputation.
How is Hospice Care Paid For?
Carolina Caring meets with each patient to explain the benefits of hospice care as it applies to the patient's specific situation. We accept Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance for payment, as circumstances dictate. Plus, our Foundation makes an abiding pledge never to turn away a person eligible for hospice care — we know how valuable a service it is to families. No one should ever forgo care because of financial concerns. We are happy to work with you.
What Role Does Palliative Care Play?
Carolina Caring includes palliative care among the ways we offer physical relief to patients. This approach delivers comfort through pain management and control of disease-specific symptoms and is part of our plan of care with every patient we see. For individuals who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases or ones that may be curable, we can direct them to Carolina Caring Palliative Medicine. This formalized palliative medicine program is better suited to their own particular circumstances and doesn’t involve end-of-life care.
Carolina Caring makes sure that each patient has access to care around the clock. During the day, a triage team handles phone calls if there are questions about care. After-hours, at night, and on weekends, our on-call team is available to address concerns. No patient or family member should ever hesitate to call Carolina Caring because of the late hour. We are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Care for All
Carolina Caring cares for people no matter their circumstances, background, or other conditions or traits. Our staff most frequently see seniors, but we attend to people of any age, including children. We have had special training to accommodate pediatric patients, and we also have vast experience with veterans, along with folks dealing with rare diseases. Wherever there is a need, we are present with compassion and professionalism.
We also believe it is important to talk with patients and families about their health care wishes. In the context of a life-limiting illness, we advise them to document their preferred medical treatments so that physicians, patients, loved ones, and the care team have a common understanding. Carolina Caring offers a guide called Don’t Travel Without a MAP that helps people address advance care planning, including considerations about CPR, artificial resuscitation, and more. Our staff are happy to help you understand the various topics and complete the Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney forms.
The Myths of Hospice
During our many years of hospice care, we have seen and heard an array of misconceptions about what we do. As a way to educate amid such misunderstanding, we list just a handful of the myths that we frequently expose — often to the surprise of people we speak to.