Monthly Archives: February 2012

Correcting Misconceptions About Hospice

If you Google the search term “misconceptions about hospices,” you’ll get 2,750,000 results. Here are just three of the big misconceptions about hospice care in the U.S.

#1. A hospice is a place. In America, most hospice care occurs in private residences. Most patients prefer to face end-of-life in the comfort of their own homes. Hospice personnel visit the patient in his or her home. Yes, there are some hospices that house patients, but most do not.

#2. Hospice is only for patients with cancer. While many hospice patients do have cancer, hospice care is available for all who have a diagnosis that indicates a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice patients include those with congestive heart failure, emphysema, dementia and AIDS.

#3. Entering hospice care means that a patient is giving up. Wrong. Hospice care works to make the remaining weeks and months of life comfortable. Hospice care helps manage symptoms such as aches and pains, nausea and problems sleeping. Hospice provides spiritual and social support, which can significantly improve quality of life.

Many studies have shown that patients receiving hospice care, on average, actually live longer (and, presumably more comfortably) than those terminal patients who are not on hospice.

At Hope Hospice of St. Louis, we work everyday to correct misconceptions about hospice. We understand why these misconceptions exist. One main reason is many people do not learn about hospice until it is absolutely necessary. Death is an uncomfortable topic for most of us and, naturally, not something we want to focus on. For those with aging parents, as well as those who are moving into the “golden years” of life, learning about hospice should be a vital concern.

The main problem with these misconceptions is they cause people to avoid or delay taking advantage of all that hospice care has to offer. We at Hope Hospice of St. Louis are always happy to provide information and answer questions about hospice care. We know that we can never completely eliminate all the misconceptions about hospice. We also know that sharing the correct information with one person, one family, one church guild, one civic organization, one medical facility employee group or one entire community can lead patients who need hospice to connect with hospice. Call us or visit us online.

Phone number: 314-984-9800

Web link: Hope Hospice of St. Louis.

 

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Our Top Priority: Patient Care

The medical industry has become, in recent decades, in many quarters, a numbers game. Hospital groups are buying out doctors’ groups for big money. Insurers and pharmacies are disagreeing on fair compensation. Consultants count the number of support personnel per doctor and suggest cutbacks if that number is too high.

Hospice care agencies, like other medical providers, have also been affected by this numbers game. At Hope Hospice, however, we make attentive patient care our top priority. Being an independent, privately owned hospice, we don’t answer to a corporate home office in a far away state. We are the home office. If a patient needs something that is beyond the norm, we don’t have to wait for days to get the answers. We walk right into the boss’s office and to ask for approval.

Similarly, we are not part of a hospital group. We are not required to make cutbacks in service due to shortfalls elsewhere in a regional system. We are a St. Louis based, independent agency.

Yes, we are also attentive to our budgets. We don’t scrimp in any way, but we do strive to work efficiently and effectively. In 2012, the costs of many things are increasing. Gasoline, food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, basic supplies are all going up. But we continue to provide several visits each week to each patient. We maintain a full staff that is on call 24/7.

Hospices are accustomed to fluctuations in patient counts. We adhere to practices that make our services to patients and families just as complete when we are serving a larger number of patients.

To work with hospice patients requires a special sensitivity and a special compassion. In some areas of medical care, a staffer may be able to disguise his or her level of concern, but in the world of hospice, it’s hard to do the work if you don’t possess those special qualities. We have had employees who came from other medical areas who learned quickly that they were not cut out for hospice work. We value our medical staff and provide fair compensation to keep them on board.

At Hope Hospice of St. Louis, we are dedicated to providing the best possible patient care and to providing strong support for the patient’s family members and caregivers. At the same time, we are concerned about finances, because that is what will allow us to continue to do the work to which we are committed.

 

 

 

 

The Value of Hospice Care

Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Hospice:

“Hospice is the only Medicare benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, twenty-four hour/seven day a week access to care and support for loved ones following a death.

Hospice care is also covered by Medicaid and most private insurance plans.”

This information is one of the most important elements of the hospice story. When a patient is referred to Hope Hospice of St. Louis, our representatives share details about the care we provide. After we list the many aspects of our patient care, the question is asked, “How much will this cost?”

Upon learning that the costs of hospice care are covered by Medicare/Medicaid/private insurance, there is frequently an audible sigh of relief from the patient and/or family members.

When you consider that hospice care includes much more than visits by nurses and home health aides, the value of hospice care becomes obvious. Addressing a patient’s emotional, spiritual and social needs, as well as physical/medical needs, allows hospice to play a huge role in a patient’s end-of-life process. The support and assistance offered to the patient’s family—before and after the patient’s death—also contribute to the value of hospice care.

Patients and families should take advantage of any hospice service that is offered. At Hope Hospice of St. Louis, we are proactive in making patients and families aware of all we can do. A conversation with one of our chaplains can be comforting. Advice from our social worker can help in dealing with a variety of issues. Our massage therapist can provide relief from pain and general stress relief.

Based on comments we regularly receive from families following a patient’s death, we are gratified to learn the real value of our work. We are frequently told that being able to spend those final weeks and months at home—with hospice care—made things easier for the patient. We hear about patient and family appreciation for our high levels of compassion and concern.

One of the greatest values of hospice care is the knowledge that, following the patient’s death, family members will not receive an invoice for services rendered. That can provide genuine peace of mind for all concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doctors, Get To Know Hospice

Hospice organizations in St. Louis and the US are working to educate the public about hospice care—what it is and what it is not.

At the same time, hospice organizations are working to educate doctors on the benefits hospice care provides at the end of life. In St. Louis, we are blessed with some of the brightest and most caring doctors in the country. Still, there are doctors who are reluctant to share the bad news with a patient that death is close at hand.

Admittedly, this would be a difficult task for any of us to perform. It may be especially tough for doctors whose mission is to extend life. It may hard to admit that a particular patient faces a certain end.

But the comfort of the patient must be the top priority. If given the choice between dying in a hospital while hooked up to tubes and monitors OR dying in your own home, with attentive hospice professionals offering their various services, which would you choose?

Former college basketball coach Charlie Spoonhour recently died. About his passing, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported: “It was peaceful,” said his wife, Vicki, who was at his side with other members of his family. “It was better than being in the hospital.”

Dr. Susan Block of Boston, who works with doctors on dealing with end of life issues, was quoted in a 2010 article about hospice in The New Yorker magazine. Her message to physicians, who may have difficulties sharing a terminal diagnosis: “A family meeting is a procedure, and it requires no less skill than performing an operation.” She suggests that doctors ask their patients: “If time becomes short, what is most important to you?”

The New Yorker article also states: “Surveys of patients with terminal illness find that their top priorities include, in addition to avoiding suffering, being with family, having the touch of others, being mentally aware, and not becoming a burden to others.”

Hospice care makes it more likely that patients can achieve many of those desires as death approaches.

We ask that doctors, and all health care professionals, make efforts to become more familiar with hospice care and all the good things it offers. Directing patients to hospice care can result in numerous benefits to the patient and the patient’s family.