Focusing on Quality End of Life Care

Hospice care is a special kind of health care that focuses on the quality of life for people who are experiencing advanced, life-limited illness, and also provides care and support for those who are at home offering personal care.

Hospice care provides compassionate care for people, many of whom are in the final phases of an incurable disease, so that they may live as comfortably as possible.

Hospice care in the United States has become an increasingly popular choice for patients and their families as they seek to focus on care, comfort, and quality of life. When it may not be possible to cure a serious disease, or the treatment may not be chosen for a variety of reasons, hospice care is based on the understanding that an illness, injury, or condition is life-limiting.

Similar to palliative care, hospice provides comprehensive comfort care as well as support for the family. Trained, caring professionals who offer hospice care, like those from Knute Nelson in West Central Minnesota, have a nursing degree, specialized certifications, and an extraordinary level of caring and compassion.

November is Home Health Care and Hospice Month. Read on to learn more about the types of hospice care and what you can expect through this period of transition.

What Are the Four Levels of Hospice Care?

Medicare defines four levels of hospice care, each of which meet the varying needs of patients and their families.

●      Routine home care: Routine home care is the basic level of hospice care provided in a home, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility. This typically involves a team approach by hospice staff and a physician to provide comfort to a person at the end of their life. It can include medical social services, spiritual support, volunteer visits, bereavement counseling, medication, equipment, and supplies related to the diagnosis.

●      Continuous home care: In continuous home care, a nurse stays in the home for an extended period of time, particularly if the patient is experiencing a medical crisis and severe symptoms such as unrelieved pain or shortness of breath.

●      General inpatient care: General inpatient care is generally called for if severe pain or other symptoms require an advanced level of care that is more effectively delivered in a health care setting. The goal of inpatient hospice care is to control pain and symptoms so the patient can return home and resume routine hospice there.

●      Respite care: Respite care is hospice care provided on a short term or occasional basis so that unpaid family caregivers can receive relief from the challenges of caring for a loved one with an advanced illness.

How to Determine the Appropriate Level of Hospice Care

The goal of hospice is to help those at the end of their life live in peace, comfort, and dignity, up to and including the moment of death. What level of care is needed at any particular time will be determined by a doctor or specialist, or by a hospice physician or nurse. Determining the appropriate level of care may include assessments and evaluations.

How to Choose a Hospice Provider

Most hospice providers offer the same basic level of care, although not all hospices are necessarily equal. Generally, the choice of a hospice provider is limited by the location of the patient, and in many communities, there may be several providers from which to choose.

Medicare has a website Hospice Compare, which provides lists and ratings of hospice providers in most communities. All hospice providers must meet state and local regulations for operating, but accreditation in some cases is voluntary. While your insurance or payment provider may to a large degree dictate who your hospice provider will be, there may be some ways you can narrow down the choices:

●      Seek word of mouth recommendations from a relative or trusted friend

●      See if your hospital discharge planner is a list of recommended providers

●      Speak with your physician, who may be able to share personal experience with a hospice provider

●      Conduct interviews with hospital workers, and if possible, ask questions such as:

                        * How are pain and other symptoms managed

                        * How quickly will hospice respond if medications do not sufficiently address                                 pain

                        * Are there any services, medications, or equipment that hospice does not                                       provide?

                        * How often will a hospice team member visit and how long will most visits last?

                        * What is expected of the family caregiver?

                        * Will the hospice provide training to family caregivers?

                        * What kind of bereavement support is offered by hospice?

What Is Most Important to You?

While qualifications and the answers to questions like those above can help, also do not be afraid to simply decide if the chemistry is right. Remember, hospice care is not normal care — and although the person answering the questions may not be involved in your care, you should feel comfortable with them as a representative of these end of life moments. As with any other big decision, patients and caregivers should try to take the right amount of time to make a smart, informed choice.

For years, Knute Nelson has offered exceptional end-of-life care in a variety of settings. Our caregivers go beyond standard care and offer music, massage, and healing touch services with care and comfort in mind. To learn more about hospice care services from Knute Nelson, contact us today.

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