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Most people have heard of hospice care, but don't want to think about it. They feel it is for people who are critically ill or "at death's door." This is not the case. This type of care does deal with end-of-life issues, but many people are still fairly active when they are admitted to hospice.
The primary requirement for hospice admission is that a physician certifies the patient probably has six or fewer months to live, if the disease runs its natural course. The timeline is not a hard and fast rule, since doctors cannot know when a patient will die, but six months is the general guideline. Hospice care can be administered wherever the patient lives: at home, or in a nursing home or other facility. The facility coordinates a care team consisting of the patient, the physician, nurses, assistants, social workers and other individuals to help administer the best care to the patient. Care includes emotional and spiritual assistance, as well as caring for the patient's family and assisting them with non-patient concerns.
When a patient is admitted to hospice, the family usually has a lot less to do. Certified nurses and assistants take over such duties as administering medication, assisting in pain management — even daily care such as bathing. Medical services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, should the patient have a crisis. Hospice can also help with issues such as getting medical equipment into the home.
This type of care also helps the patient deal with end-of-life issues emotionally and spiritually. Counselors and spiritual advisers are usually part of the treatment team, and help the family as well. Many even provide bereavement services and counseling to the family after the patient's death.
Hospice care is usually free of charge to the patient if he or she is covered by Medicare Part A. It is also covered by most insurance companies and Medicaid. Very few patients have any out-of-pocket expenses for these services.
A patient can usually speak with his or her healthcare provider about being admitted to hospice care. Many medical professionals may suggest it to patients and their families. There are also many resources available on the Internet, and from the local Commission on Aging. Many people have found this type of care to be the best, most compassionate option for caring for their loved ones at the end of their lives.