Although no one likes to talk about it, it is important to have a discussion with family members about what you want in the event you experience a lifelong illness or a terminal diagnosis. Approximately 80 percent of Americans say they would prefer to die at home, but only 20 percent do so. Is that because we don’t know when to call hospice? Involving hospice doesn’t mean giving up or ending a life early, it is meant to enhance the quality of life between diagnosis and death. In fact, patients who receive hospice services early in their diagnosis tend to live longer than patients who do not. That’s because hospice and palliative care 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 end of life.
“Anyone who is receiving hospice services is not only receiving medical care through our providers, but also social work support that provides guidance with preparations for death, preparations for the funeral and help with financial matters, so many resources are available. Then, our chaplains provide much-needed spiritual support to folks at a time when things can really be trying,” board-certified hospice and palliative care physician Dr. Teresa Catron said. Hospice care can include medical management of pain and symptoms, medication, medical supplies and equipment, physical, occupational and speech therapies, home aid services, dietary counseling, and spiritual or grief counseling. In addition, Medicare and Medicaid typically cover the cost of hospice services. “Since it’s a 100 percent benefit, even all medications associated with managing your illness also would be covered by the hospice benefit,” Catron added.
There also is a huge advantage to involving hospice earlier in a chronic or life-limiting condition. “The perfect time to start asking about hospice is when you are told you have a life-limiting illness, even if it’s two years before you may pass. Involving hospice early on means a death can happen with comfort and dignity and not be a traumatic experience for you or your family. Some patients live beyond the six-month timeframe, but if you continue to meet the criteria for hospice, even if it extends beyond the benefit period, you can stay on hospice care,” Catron said.
“We’re trying to help you adjust to, face and accept that new reality, and again to ensure that what remains for you at the end of your life is as good and fulfilling to you as you want it to be,” Catron continued. “We prefer to come in earlier because we can do so much more for families to assist them as they prepare for end of life and what comes after, and it takes time to be able to successfully administer to all those needs. When a patient comes to us in crisis, we don’t always have the time to offer the best benefits of hospice. Everyone dies at some point, but how that happens can be our decision and on our own terms,” Catron added.
For more information about the full range of chronic illness and end-of-life services Blount Memorial Hospice and Palliative Care offers, call 865-977-5702.