Words for Good® team member, Anne Tabor Miller, had a chance to go back to her health care roots this month while collaborating on a Medicare Care Choices Model application with one of her first employers, Community Home Health (CHH). The proposed project, which focuses on expanding the reach of CHH’s hospice program, served as a poignant reminder of the indispensable care given by hospice providers to terminally ill patients and their caregivers.
In the United States alone, more than 1.65 million people are cared for by hospice every year. To those who may not understand its value, the term “hospice” can spark feelings of despair. However, the reality is that hospice facilitates significant improvement in the quality of the end of life – helping patients with diagnoses of cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s, kidney failure, and other terminal conditions live a better and even longer life in many cases.
Led by an interdisciplinary team of professionals, including a physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, dietician, aides, and volunteers, hospice develops individualized plans of care to manage symptoms, control pain, and provide psychological, social, and spiritual support to meet the needs of patients and their families. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This support is instrumental in helping patients avoid preventable physician office visits, emergency department visits, and inpatient stays – giving them more time to live life as fully as possible. Hospice programs also provide 13 months of bereavement support to families/caregivers after the death of their loved one. This “built-in” counseling enables caregivers and families to grieve in healthier ways and provides assurance to the patient that their loved ones won’t be left alone to manage their loss.
While hospice is most often provided in the home setting, its services and benefits are equally impactful for patients in hospitals and nursing homes. If you have a loved one facing a terminal illness, we encourage you to address the appropriate timing of hospice care with their health care providers. For more information about the mission of hospice, eligibility, and funding, please visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website.