“The end-of-life deserves as much beauty, care and respect as the beginning.” -Anonymous

While all of us will face death some day, it’s often a seldom-discussed, most-unprepared-for event in our lives. That’s where hospice care comes in, which is a vital form of health care designed to achieve quality of life at the end of life.

This unique form of health care was so necessary, the U.S. established a Medicare benefit in 1982 (more than 40 years ago!) that covers nearly all patient costs related to hospice. But how is hospice different from other health care and non-hospice providers? 

These major areas make hospice a unique form of health care:

  • Interdisciplinary, holistic approach for mind, body, and soul
  • Goals for end of life based on patient and family values
  • High levels of family support and patient satisfaction
  • Health cost savings due to hospice goals and structure

Distinctions of Hospice Care

Instead of a disease-focused model to treat and cure an illness or injury, hospice goals include comfort, support, resolution, and life closure. As a result, hospice care must be individualized for each patient, multidimensional, practical, and realistic. A common myth is that patients on hospice are just waiting to die, but good hospice care easily debunks that stigma.

“In reflecting on what patients and families have taught us, the experiences of advanced illness, dying and bereavement are much more than medical experiences. By helping to reduce all dimensions of suffering and reframe the end-of-life experience, quality palliative care facilitates personal growth and meaning toward a more peaceful life closure,” according to The Experience Model outlined in NewsLine, a publication by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

The Experience Model approach, founded by early hospice advocate and pioneer Mary Labyak, states that quality hospice and palliative (or comfort) care support is a multi- and interdisciplinary approach that must address four dimensions of patients— physical, interpersonal, spiritual and emotional.

Difference of End-of-Life Care Goals

Hospice goals are different from curative efforts as the disease reaches the stage where treatment is no longer effective or desired by the patient. Providers like Heart to Heart Hospice lead families through informed, compassionate hospice conversations on what the patient themselves and their families want to achieve during their final weeks or months of life. 

Hospice care goes well beyond treating pain, skin conditions, breathing issues, etc. Patient-and-family values and life-closure goals should drive care and services, according to The Experience Model. Patients also choose where they want care to take place, most often in the home or nursing facility they call home, instead of a hospital. Levels of care fluctuate, from routine home care, continuous home care, inpatient respite care, and general inpatient care.

For hospice, the family’s values and wishes lead the plan and then hospice employs a care team who supports that patient-driven plan, including doctors, nurses, aides, volunteers, spiritual care coordinators, mental and emotional health support and more. Coordination between the team, focused on the family’s goals, is essential to hospice, instead of one specialist treating one aspect of care.

For example, a patient’s wishes may include the desire to be alert as long as possible with less pain intervention so they can continue to interact with family or leave the house. A patient may desire help with resolving a family relationship or one last vacation. A patient might want to share their practical wishes with a hospice employee, from personal messages to creating a document to pass on their assets to loved ones.

Extensive Patient & Family Support

From acceptance of a life-limiting diagnosis to equipping caregivers with tools and support to bereavement care, the hospice model is unparalleled. Hospice team members are specifically trained on end-of-life issues for mind, body, and soul. Unlike curative health care, hospice helps train families on important topics such as:

  • Creating a safe home environment
  • Medication management and medical equipment 
  • What to expect with disease progression and signs of active dying
  • Caregiver duties
  • Navigating last wishes, end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements, and a survivor’s checklist

Regular visits, plus 24/7 support available to triage urgent needs, improves patient satisfaction and family comfort for the hospice period. Finally, the Medicare payment system helps keep patients from unnecessary hospitalizations and bundles payments that facilitate program savings. Many private insurances, the VA and Medicaid also offer hospice coverage. 

Audrey said this about the care her mother received from Heart to Heart Hospice: “They treated her with dignity, respect, and kindness throughout the whole year. The nurse, chaplains, social workers, CNAs, and others were angels in disguise — the care and concern they showed were such a comfort to all of us. Their daily visits during her last week were so helpful as they walked with us through a hard journey as we said goodbye to our sweet mom.” 

A passionate hospice team instills confidence and provides relief, with the goal of ushering in peace during the final moments of life. Don’t let fear cause you to wait too long to consider hospice. Call Heart to Heart Hospice to see if it’s time to embrace the unique comfort and guidance offered via hospice care.