Monthly Archives: March 2013

Hospice Freedom of Choice

An article in the Chicago Tribune last year listed several of the common misconceptions about hospice. Among them is the idea that a patient must opt for hospice care only from the hospice agency connected to (or recommended by) a doctor, hospital or nursing facility.

“While they [care providers] all may have contracts with hospice agencies and recommend their care, a patient is free to research and make their own choice,” the article states.

Why would a patient or patient’s family choose not to use a hospice recommended by the doctor? Often the doctor is an employee of a hospital group and may feel obliged to suggest his group’s own hospice (just as he might if you asked for a referral for, say, a dermatologist).

At Hope Hospice, we frequently receive calls from those who have had other family members in our care. Recommendations from friends and neighbors also lead many to call. We also get calls from people who find us on the internet and wish to compare levels of service. (By the way, we always welcome such comparisons.)

The president of the Illinois Hospice and Palliative Care Association, Rick Kasper, says in the Tribune article that families and patients should interview hospice representatives to make their choice. “It is very important,” he says. “You have people that sometimes just don’t connect.” In the article, he mentions that families should ask about additional services such as massage therapy.

If you or a loved one are currently considering hospice care or if hospice care is a possibility at some point in the near future, feel free to call us at Hope Hospice. We may be able to answer many of your questions by phone, and are always willing and available to meet with you in person. You may call our office at 314-984-9800.

Remember, you do have a choice when it comes to hospice care.

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A Survivor Speaks About Hospice

Seven years beyond his wife’s passing, a survivor recalls his experience with hospice. After grueling rounds of chemo, which were becoming less and less effective, but more and more painful, the wife chose to end aggressive treatment.

At the time, he and his wife knew little about hospice except what her oncologist shared when the doctor first mentioned hospice. The oncologist arranged for the initial hospice visit to the couple’s home. “I couldn’t believe it,” the husband said, when the hospice rep explained that Medicare would cover all costs.

Shortly thereafter, twice-weekly hospice visits began. The hospice nurse would monitor the wife’s blood pressure, weight and other vital signs. The visits, including conversations about patient comfort, generally lasted about an hour. The nurse delivered all medications to control his wife’s pain. “She never really had any real pain, thanks to the hospice,” recalls the husband.

The hospice’s chaplain called and offered his services. The husband and wife agreed that the pastor from their church could provide spiritual support. They thanked the chaplain for his concern, but declined his services.

“The nurse that called on (my wife) seemed to be kind of a therapist and a nurse. She knew how to comfort her socially and how to comfort her physically. She sat down and she was a pal to her. There was a lot of companionship there. She (the nurse) was a special lady.” The husband says, “The nurse was super smart about the right medications. They took care of all that stuff.”

“The nurse brought adult diapers because sometimes (my wife’s) control was not always that good,” he recalled.

The director of the hospice came by occasionally to monitor situation. She asked the husband, “How are you doing?” The husband said, “Pretty good, but sometimes I could use more help.” She said, “We can offer additional nurse visits.”

What did the hospice do following his wife’s passing? “After she died, they came for a follow-up interview to see if there was anything I needed, to make me comfortable, “ the husband remembers.

The husband told the hospice director, “I read the Bible and I believe in angels. I never recognized anybody as an angel until I met your people.”

The true story related above is based on an interview conducted with a surviving husband in Alabama. The hospice agency referred to is based in Birmingham.

Hospice Care Saves Money for Medicare

The results of a recent study published by Health Affairs, a journal of health policy and research, show that hospice provides significant cost reductions for patient care. This is great news for taxpayers because of the large portion of health care in the US that is funded by Medicare.

Of course, we have known all along about the savings that hospice care delivers. This finding just makes it official.

Earlier findings had indicated that, on average, significant savings to Medicare occurred only when a patient was receiving hospice care for at least 53 days before dying. The new figures reveal that shorter terms can also reduce average costs.

Patients enrolled for one to seven days before dying saved Medicare an average of $2,650. Patients on hospice for eight to 14 days resulted in savings of $5,040. And those who were hospice patients for 15 to 30 days before death led to an average savings of $6,430 compared to hospital and other medical costs.

Multiply those figures by the number of deaths that occur annually in the US. The result is savings well into the billions. With our state and nation facing multiple fiscal challenges, it is reassuring to note that ours is a portion of the health care arena where we can make a difference.

At Hope Hospice, our top objectives are patient comfort and symptom control. The care we provide comes from a team of participants. In addition to our medical team (doctors, nurses, home health aides), patients and caregivers receive support from our social worker, our chaplains and our massage therapist. This means that while our work is less costly than hospital visits, the services we deliver to patients are extensive and thorough.

How can you help? Spread the word. As Americans learn more about hospice, they embrace it in greater numbers. As patient numbers grow for hospices around the country, the savings to our nation’s Medicare budget also increase.

For information about Hope Hospice or hospice care in general, visit our website HopeHospiceStl.com or call our office at 314-984-9800.

 

 

 

Shouldn’t Every Hospice Have a Massage Therapist?

Yes, they should. However, not every hospice has a massage therapist. It’s not a requirement. But we at Hope Hospice have one and we are proud of the work she does!

The primary goals of hospice care are patient comfort and symptom control. Massage therapy helps us meet those goals with our patients.

While we all love a good back rub, our Hope Hospice massage therapy goes well beyond that. Our massage therapy addresses centralized areas of pain, which can be in the back, the shoulders, the arms, the legs, the hands, the feet, the neck or the head.

Many patients spend much of their day in bed or in a chair with little movement. Muscles that are not used can become stiff. Massage can relieve that stiffness. Massage therapy can aid in circulation, especially in the arms and legs.

Hospice patients face a unique kind of stress. Not only are they concerned about their own lives coming to an end, they also worry about their survivors and how they will fare following the patient’s death.

For most patients, massage therapy provides significant stress relief. A simple human touch can provide psychological relief that is often greater than the physical relief a massage can offer. Another result of massage for many patients is better sleep.

Our Hope Hospice massage therapist is aware of medical conditions and family circumstances regarding each patient she visits. She attends our weekly staff meetings where she receives patient updates and frequently offers her input. She is a vital part of our hospice care team.

Massage therapy is one of the lesser-known elements of hospice care. Here in St. Louis at Hope Hospice, we know that it is a vital and effective way to improve the quality of life of our patients. We make sure that every patient and caregiver is aware that we offer massage therapy and we encourage them to take advantage and reap the benefit.

Hope Hospice: 314-984-9800

HopeHospiceStL.com