Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Truth About Hospice - by Kathryn Cook of Avalon Hospice

Greetings all.  I have a very special posting for you today.  My friend Kathy Cook with with Avalon Hospice and I asked if she would do a guest blog.  The purpose and services of Hospice are frequently misunderstood and I asked Kathy to write about the ins and outs of using Hospice.  This is a great read!

by Kathryn Cook of Avalon Hospice

Hospice.  The mere mention of the word frightens patients and family members alike.

I would like to explain the benefits of using hospice services and also dispel a few myths.

          What is hospice?

Definition:  Hospice is a coordinated program of palliative (comfort, rather than aggressive) care and support services designed to meet unique needs of patients and families facing a life limiting expectancy. Services are provided through a medically-directed team of professionals....Physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, aides, therapists and volunteers.

         How hospice differs from other types of healthcare?
  • Hospice offers palliative rather than curative treatment
  • Hospice treats the person, not the disease
  • Hospice emphasizes quality, rather than length of life
  • Hospice cares for the entire family not just the patient
  • Hospice offers help and support 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week
Now, let's look at a few of the myths surrounding hospice care.
  • Once I'm on hospice, I can't change my mind. Hospice is an elective benefit and you can change your mind at any time.
Hospice care is only for the last few days of life. 
  • The biggest benefits to using the hospice benefit comes from using an agency earlier rather than later.
Once hospice is involved, the patient will be medicated with morphine and they will die sooner. 
  • Hospice does not hasten death! It is our objective to provide the best care for patient and family for whatever life expectancy is remaining.
We cannot keep our own Physician.
  • Every patient has the right to keep the primary care physician they choose.
  • The primary care physician becomes part of the hospice team.
Hospice is expensive.
  • Hospice care is paid for by Medicare, Medi-Cal and most private insurances.
  • There is no out of pocket expense for the patient or family. 
  • No one is ever turned away from hospice.
If I get better and stop hospice care, I can't ever use the benefit again.
  • If a patient stabilizes and stops declining, they can revoke hospice services and be admitted again later.
I hope this information is helpful in clearing up much of the negative information floating out in our community. If you would like additional information regarding hospice services you may contact me directly.

Kathryn Cook, LVN/ Community Liaison
Avalon Hospice and Palliative Care
(760) 509-5705

A side note from Laura:  Both of my parents have been on Hospice.  My step-dad, Harry, ended up on Hospice when he had an accident and broke his neck.  After the doctors at the hospital determined there was nothing that could be done to save him, the Hospice team worked with us to transition Harry to a wonderful Hospice Hospital where he spent the last week being kept comfortable and pain free, which was a blessing to both him and his family as we spent time with him in his final days.

My mother went on hospice when she had an internal bleed that was not fixed by two surgical procedures.  Mom hovered between life and death for about a week and then her body started to heal itself.  Mom stayed on Hospice for almost three months and then signed herself off when she was ready to start physical therapy and get back to her life.

Through both situations we had caring hospice medical staff, social workers, and counselors helping us through the experience.  My step-sister had the support of Hospice in her last days with cancer and she died at home surrounded by her husband, children, and those of us that could get to Arizona to see her.

If you'd like more information about Hospice please call Kathy and if you'd like to have some support with your loved one through this difficult time, AltaGolden has wonderful caregivers experienced in loving hospice support. 

Be well and have a wonderful week.
Laura Barish