What is Hospice Care and What are its Purposes

What is Hospice Care and What are its Purposes

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Frank Davis

Hospice care is a type of care for terminally ill patients who may be suffering from a chronic condition, such as cancer. The purpose of hospice care is to provide comfort and dignity to the person, as well as support to the family members. Hospice care is meant to provide each patient with the highest level of comfort, pain control, and symptom relief possible. Hospice care is provided at no cost to the patient or the family. The majority of the time, hospice care is provided in a home setting, but in some cases, they may be provided in a hospital or a facility.

The type of care provided by a hospice will vary depending on the patient and the specific condition. Hospice care often involves a team of different medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers and volunteers. The goal is to provide comprehensive care to meet each person’s needs. Hospice care may treat some or all of the signs and symptoms of a particular condition, such as cancer. Hospice care may also provide relief from pain and other medical symptoms. If there is no cure for a particular condition, such as advanced cancer, then hospice care is provided to ease pain and suffering and help manage other physical needs that patients may have during their stay.

In the United States, hospice care is available under Medicare and can be obtained by people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The services provided by a hospice are paid for by the Medicare program under specific guidelines. Hospice care may also be available through other health care programs, such as Medicaid.

In order to qualify for hospice care under Medicare, a person must have a doctor’s certification that they have a condition that is expected to end in death within six months. In most cases, the doctor’s prognosis must be given in writing. The patient must also agree to hospice care and avoid curative treatments.

Hospice care is an optional program. People who choose not to participate in the program may still receive other types of medical or nursing care, such as active symptom management, pain relief and palliative care. Hospice care may also be provided without regard to the patient’s ability to pay for it.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), over 1.5 million Americans rely on hospice every year. This number increases annually and has been increasing for more than a decade. The majority of hospice patients are over the age of 65 and over 50% of patients are cared for at home.

The type of care provided by a hospice is not intended to be curative. The hospice team works together to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their family members. The goal is to provide comfort without aggressive medical treatment that may extend life but that may also interfere with quality of life. Pain management is usually the first priority, followed by meeting any other needs or wants of the patient or their family members. The hospice staff may also help the family members in addressing their grief associated with losing a loved one.

The type of care provided by hospice will vary depending on the health needs of the patient. For patients who are in pain, medications, including morphine or other opiates, may be prescribed by healthcare providers to reduce or eliminate that pain. Oxygen may also be provided for patients who are having respiratory problems due to their illness or injury. If necessary, other treatments may be provided to address particular symptoms, such as shortness of breath.

Medical supplies and medical equipment might also be required for the patient’s management of specific symptoms or needs. For example, patients who are incontinent may need catheters or protective clothing. Patients who have trouble walking might need walkers, canes or wheelchairs. Families might also have to take over specific tasks for the patient, including washing and changing bandages or other dressings. If the patient is semi-conscious or unconscious, the family may have to take over basic hygiene tasks, including bathing, brushing teeth and changing clothes.

Nutrition is also important in providing comfort for hospice patients. Doctors or nurses will work with patients to determine what foods they are able to eat and how much of it they need. Patients may receive nutritional supplements if they are unable to eat normally because of their illness or treatment. A registered dietitian may help patients plan meals that meet their nutritional needs while minimizing unwanted side effects of medications taken by the patient or that which might be caused by the disease itself.

As described above, pain management is one of the primary goals in hospice care. However, other goals are also important. These include treating the cause of the pain or anxiety, relieving anxiety about death or dying, improving quality of life and supporting the family members. In some cases, medications may be administered to relieve anxiety, reduce nausea and vomiting, relax the patient or help with sleep. Some people may also experience depression when they are in hospice care. In these cases, medications or therapy may be provided to help with this condition.

In the case of terminal illness, such as advanced cancer, the medical professionals in a hospice team will work to make sure the patient is as comfortable as possible and their symptoms are addressed. The family may also receive support from a social worker or therapist who will help them cope with the dying process and their grief over losing a loved one. Many families benefit from having a member of the hospice team visit with them on a regular basis to address specific concerns and offer support for their grief.

In addition to providing comfort, the hospice team may also provide spiritual support. Religious services such as prayer and meditation can help people with terminal illness feel connected to their faith and connected to their loved ones. Hospice care is generally limited to patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and who must live six months or less. However, patients who are not expected to live six months are also able to receive other types of care, such as palliative care.

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