Blog Post

Providing The Highest Quality Care For Our Loved Ones With Hospice And Palliative Care

November 06, 2020

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

Every November, we recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month helping our community understand how important hospice and palliative care can be before you or a loved one are facing a medical crisis.

Hospice and palliative care combine high-quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support families need most when facing a serious or terminal illness. Palliative care offers comfort and support earlier in the course of a serious illness. Hospice brings patients and family caregivers high-quality, compassionate care and support when a cure is not possible. Together, palliative care and hospice can help people live each moment of life to the fullest!

As we raise awareness and reflect about hospice and palliative care, here are five useful facts about hospice and palliative care and how they can improve the last stages of life for patients and loved ones.

1. Hospice care and palliative care are not the same.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for those living with a serious illness, such as advanced heart failure, cancer, dementia, chronic liver disease, COPD or severe kidney disease.  Palliative care works to improve quality of life through symptom management and can be provided alongside curative treatments. Quality of life has different meanings to different people. The Freeman palliative care team will discuss what quality of life means to the patient and help the patient sort through different treatment options to find the one that best suits their goals of care. 

Hospice is a program funded through Medicare, and most insurances, for people who have a prognosis that could be less than six months and aggressive life-prolonging treatments are no longer benefiting the patient. The main goal is focused on comfort and quality of life and is achieved through a holistic team approach that includes a registered nurse, nurse aid, social worker, chaplain and volunteers overseen by a physician. Different team members visit throughout the week to ensure the patient’s needs are met, whether they are at home, a nursing facility or hospital. 

2. Medicare covers hospice and might cover palliative care.

Hospice is a Medicare benefit and is covered 100%. Most private insurances and Medicaid programs cover hospice services as well. This includes all team members, medications required for symptom management and equipment. A person must have a prognosis of six months to qualify for hospice, although, some people may live longer and will still qualify for hospice services. 

In-home palliative care services may be categorized as palliative care or home health services.  Coverage is based on individual insurance plans.  Some home health or hospice teams may provide in-home palliative care services for those who are not yet appropriate for hospice. 

Freeman Health System offers an embedded palliative care program within the main hospital and an outpatient clinic. Both the inpatient program and the outpatient clinic file with Medicare, Medicaid and insurances. 

3. Hospice and palliative care are not just for people with cancer.

We often think of cancer patients as the ones in need of hospice and palliative care, but anyone with a chronic condition can benefit from this personalized attention. The goal with each is to improve the quality of life, which in turn, can help maintain or improve those with chronic/debilitating diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, neurological disorders and end-stage heart, lung or kidney disease.

4. Hospice is for the entire family.

Hospice not only supports the patient but supports the entire family. Family members appreciate having a hospice team available 24 hours a day by phone in case there is a medical emergency. Once the patient passes, the hospice bereavement coordinator follows up with family for support. 

5. Hospice care is offered in the home.

When treatments are no longer effective or causing more harm than good, many patients can return to their daily activities in the comfort of their own home. This way, they can be surrounded by the people and things they love. All equipment and medical supplies brought into the home are covered by the Medicare hospice benefit. Respite services, up to five days a month, are available for caregiver breaks as needed.

Freeman’s highly trained palliative care professionals ensure patients and families find dignity, respect and love during life’s most difficult journey. They encourage patients and their families to complete an advance directive to document and share end of life wishes. The Freeman palliative care team is available to discuss and assist in filling out these documents for those who need assistance. Advance care planning involves talking about the care you would and would not want. 

The Freeman palliative care program assists with pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families at all stages of illnesses. These programs combine the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that families need most when facing a serious illness or the end of life. For more information regarding Freeman’s palliative care services, call 417.347.4094.