About a week ago I was picking up a takeout lunch from a local Chinese restaurant. My regular server came over and started chatting with me and asked where I work. I explained that I worked for Casa de la Luz, just down the street from the restaurant.
The woman didn’t know what hospice was so I spent a couple minutes explaining the service to her. This is a pretty typical conversation for me when asked what I do for a living. Most people only have a vague idea of what hospice does, and most of them seem to think care only happens in a hospice facility. Perhaps you’re one of these people, unsure what hospice care provides or even where it happens.
So, what are some facts about hospice care?
It’s a holistic method of care that focuses on an individual’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at the end of life. The emphasis is on offering care and comfort, not cures. It’s a benefit that’s covered by Medicare and most insurance providers. Hospice care offers support and education about the dying process to a patient’s loved ones.
“Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver, and when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s 2011 edition of “NHPCO Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America.”
In 2010, 66.7% of hospice patients received services at home. Other patients were served in either a hospice inpatient facility or an acute care hospital. More than 1.5 million people received hospice services in 2010.
A Duke University study released in 2007 found that hospice care reduced Medicare spending by an average of $2,309 per person. So not only does hospice care help fulfill the wishes of most dying individuals to spend their final days at home, but it’s also a financial benefit to Medicare.
Unfortunately, like the woman at the Chinese restaurant, most individuals don’t know what hospice is or misunderstand it. As a result, individuals are referred to hospice very late in their illnesses. NHPCO reports that half of hospice patients in 2009 received care for less than three weeks, and in 2010, approximately 35% of patients died or were discharged within seven days of admission to hospice.
Medicare Hospice Benefit eligibility rules state that a person is eligible for hospice if they have six months or less to live (if the illness runs its normal course). It is a disappointment then that so many hospice patients are served for a week or less, and many more for less than a month.
If you are in the Tucson area, and interested in learning more about how hospice care can help you and your loved one, please visit our website at www.casahospice.com or call 520-544-9890.