November’s National Hospice Month
To the editor:
The concept of hospice started in Europe in the 11th century. Hospices were originally a place of hospitality for the sick, wounded or dying and even travelers or pilgrims on a journey. It wasn’t until 1967, when Dr. Cicely Saunders established the first hospice in the United States. Patients were treated in the hospital, nursing home or their own homes just as they are today.
Hospice is a specialized type of care provided to individuals who are experiencing a life-limiting or terminal illness as well as their family members and caregivers.
Hospice care focuses on enhancing the patient’s quality of life while preserving their dignity. It concentrates on alleviating symptoms of one’s disease, especially pain. Diagnoses that typically qualify for hospice care include end-stage cardiac, renal or lung disease; late-stage Alzheimer’s disease; and cancer. Hospice care is covered by Medicare, even if the patient has an advantage plan, Medicaid and most private insurances.
Services are provided by an interdisciplinary team which includes a medical director, primary registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, medical social workers, a spiritual care coordinator and volunteers. Bereavement services are provided to a patient’s family for 13 months after the patient’s death. Hospice agencies pay for all medications related to the person’s admitting diagnosis, medical supplies such as incontinent pads and catheters and durable medical equipment such as hospital beds, oxygen and bedside commodes.
Many people associate hospice with death, yet the goal of hospice care is to assist the patient in having the best quality of life they can, for however long they are given. Hospice teams are there to support and encourage patients and their families. Many patients and family members rely on their health care provider to introduce the idea to them but, unfortunately, they express that they learned too late about hospice care. If you believe you or a seriously ill loved one could be helped by hospice care, ask your doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or discharge planner for information about hospice care. You are entitled to information about services offered by hospice, and you also have the right to choose the hospice agency you want for your care.
Cathy M. Cich
Founder and CEO