Monthly Archives: February 2013

Over One-Third of Dying Americans Utilize Hospice

The statistic in the headline above is one of those “good news/bad news” numbers.

It is good news because it reveals that hospice use in the US is growing. The number of patients on hospice continues to increase annually, as more people learn about hospice and its many positive qualities.

But that number is also bad news because it tells us that almost two-thirds of those who die each year in America do not use hospice. We believe that a large number of the individuals within that two-thirds who do not choose hospice would benefit from the services that we at Hope Hospice and other hospice agencies deliver.

Why do dying patients—ones who would qualify for hospice care—choose not to utilize hospice? In most cases it is because of the many misconceptions about what hospice is and what it does. Patients (and family members and other caregivers) are often misinformed about the illnesses that hospice covers. They may also be misinformed about the length of time a patient can be on hospice.

An important statistic indicates that the majority of hospice patients in the US are under the care of hospice for thirty days or less. We feel this is sad news because hospice care can last for six months or longer, based on the patient’s condition. The misconception that going on hospice care equals “giving up” is another that we work hard to dispel.

Why do these misconceptions persist? Possibly because we in hospice are more focused on doing our work that on sharing information about our services with the public. A more likely reason is that the modern concept of hospice is still relatively new to many Americans.

We find that many people—even those in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s—are unaware of the services provided by hospice until we explain it to them.

We encourage you to learn more about hospice and ask that you share your knowledge with friends and family. Call Hope Hospice to learn about hospice care available in metro St. Louis at 314-984-9800. Or visit our website HopeHospiceStL.com.

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Respite Care—An Important Part of Hospice

When a home-based hospice patient requires the presence of a caregiver at all times, the stress of providing that care can be daunting. Even when the caregiving is spread among several family members or other individuals, those who are providing the care may need a break.

Caregivers may need or want to be part of other family events, such as a wedding or the birth of a grandchild in another city. They may merely want to go out to dinner or a show. In such situations, Hope Hospice can arrange respite care for our hospice patients. This allows the caregiver(s) to enjoy a respite from the need to be with the patient constantly.

With respite care, the patient is placed in a quality nursing facility for a short stay, no longer than five days. As with all the care provided by Hope Hospice, respite care is a covered expense.

While some caregivers may fear that they will have guilt feelings for leaving mom or dad or their husband or wife in a nursing facility for a few days, the respite can have extraordinary value.

For the patient, the brief stay at the nursing facility provides a change of scenery. For the caregiver(s), respite care affords an opportunity to refresh and recharge. Getting away from the day-to-day routine can allow the caregiver(s) time to think about and appreciate the task to which so much time and energy has been committed.

When the patient returns home, the level of caregiving may improve, due to the effects of the R & R enjoyed by those taking care of the patient. And, no matter how good the nursing home may have been, the positive effect of being back home is good for the patient.

Respite care is one of the lesser-known services that Hope Hospice provides. But the results of respite care can be amazing.

 

 

Do You Have Plans For The End of Your Life?

A powerful, personal segment aired on NBC’s Rock Center TV show in December. The report featured a couple in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at a local hospital that interviews patients to get their input on the care they prefer to receive.

The husband has inoperable lung cancer. Watching the man and his wife answer the questions may make you cry, just as the conversation brought tears to the couple’s eyes. But both recognize the value of advance directive. You can view the segment, which runs just over 8 minutes, by clicking here.

When a patient is unable, due to physical or mental incapacitation, to communicate his or her desires about treatment, the advance directive provides guidance for both family members and medical personnel.

At Hope Hospice, we provide new patients with a form called The Five Wishes. They are asked to select their Health Care Agent to make health care decisions “when I can’t make them for myself.” Patients are also asked about the kind of treatment they want or don’t want. They can indicate it they wish to be placed on life support or not.

Wishes include “my wish for how comfortable I want to be” and “my wish for how I want people to treat me.” As the note on the front of the form indicates, “Contents are of significant value and, if notarized, are recognized as a legal document.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s office has an excellent Life Choices form available online, which allows medical patients to designate wishes for end of life. This pdf also lists many things to be concerned about as you or a loved one face the end of life. You may download that form by clicking here. Please check out the useful information on page 24 of the form about hospice care.

Of course, the value of advance directive is realized when death is close at hand. Should medical staff do everything possible to keep the patient alive or should they focus on making the patient comfortable? When that question is answered, in advance, by the patient, end of life decisions are less stressful for all.

We at Hope Hospice are always happy to share our Five Wishes form with interested parties and we are ready to share our thoughts about the Life Choices form from the Attorney General’s office. Call us anytime with your questions about hospice care at 314-984-9800.