Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hospice Is Not (Usually) A Place

A question we are sometimes asked is: How big is your facility? How many rooms/beds do you have?

Our “facility” in St. Louis County is in an office complex. We have offices, storage areas, a classroom, meeting areas and a kitchen/break area. But we do not have patient rooms or beds here. Our patients receive hospice care in their homes or in nursing homes (or assisted living facilities).

There are in-patient hospice facilities, but most St. Louis area hospice patients are in private homes or care facilities.

Why do so many people think of a hospice as a place? For centuries, hospices were places where the terminally ill came to die. The modern hospice movement, featuring care primarily in one’s home, is barely a half-century old. Many of the patients we’ve served at Hope Hospice were never told about hospice when they were growing up. And, if they did hear a little bit here and there about hospice, the information was sketchy at best.

Hospice patients who are in their homes receive routine daily care from family members. Hospice nurses and home health aides provide specialized care to patients. Hospice staff also provides support to those family members, in the form of training.

The beauty of hospice care is that family members are not isolated from a dying patient. Instead of seeing mom or dad in a hospital room, lying in bed, hooked up to a variety of monitors, family members see their loved one at home in a favorite comfortable chair.

The idea that hospice is a place is one of the many misconceptions that exist regarding hospice care. At Hope Hospice, we address misconceptions everyday, as we tell the story of hospice to new patients and family members.

For information about hospice care, call us at Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800. Hope Hospice serves patients and families in St. Louis city and county and in Jefferson, St. Charles and Franklin counties.

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Dying On Schedule? No One Can Predict Exactly

To qualify for hospice care, a patient must have a life expectancy of six months or less. But the exact date of death is impossible to predict.

When a doctor tells a patient that he may live for another month or maybe another six months, the doctor is saying, “Your condition is terminal, but I don’t know exactly how long you have.” When a patient is given a terminal diagnosis, an oncologist (or other specialist) may not be fully aware of other factors that can move a patient closer to or farther from death.

Is there a history of smoking, excessive drinking, drug use, diabetes, pneumonia, mental illness, obesity or other conditions? The answers can help a doctor offer a more accurate educated guess regarding the remaining time for the patient, but there can be no precise determination. Even patients on death’s doorstep, for whom bedside death watches are undertaken by family, often live for several days or even weeks before passing.

Can a patient go on hospice too early? Yes. When a patient is on hospice care and does not pass away within six months, the patient must be recertified. If the patient is found to have improved and, if the determination is made that death is no longer expected in six months, the patient goes off the hospice patient roster. But, if the patient’s reevaluation reveals that she or he still has a life expectancy of six months or less, the patient can continue to receive hospice care.

Can a patient go on hospice too late? Yes. Patients and families often have the incorrect idea that hospice care is only for the final days of life. In many situations, the patient or family does not completely understand the full scope of hospice care. This is why we constantly work to tell people the hospice story.

We have witnessed patients whose time with us exceeded expectations. We have also had patients who passed suddenly, much quicker than anticipated. The “six months or less” life expectancy is an estimate. No one can predict exactly.

(For information about hospice care, call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.)

 

You Have Questions? We Have Answers!

At Hope Hospice, a significant amount of our time goes to answering questions. We answer questions asked by patients who have been referred to Hope Hospice. We answer questions asked by those patients’ family members and other caregivers. We answer questions asked by media members in interviews. We answer questions asked by people that staff members encounter during personal time.

We are always ready to provide answers, to the best of our abilities. And when our answers are not completely understood the first time, we strive to clarify to the satisfaction of the questioner.

Most people have heard of hospice care, but, because there may be no apparent urgent reason to learn more about it, their awareness of how hospice works may be limited. It’s not unlike some of the shows on TV, about which we may know a little bit, but not enough to provide details.

If your parents are aging or if you and your spouse are getting to that point in life when you give more than an occasional passing thought to your eventual demise, now is a good time to learn about hospice care. You or your family may have no need for hospice for years. But, like other life events, it can be good to have more than just surface knowledge about the end of one’s life. And situations in our lives can change overnight.

Our Hope Hospice community liaisons, Carl Lathan and Sarah Bilbrey, share basic information about hospice care to numerous individuals every week. They answer questions. And, if they don’t know the answer, they seek it out.

Sarah and Carl are available to speak to your community organization or church group about hospice. They’ve visited with hundreds of patients and families. Each one has a different story and different questions. They will take the time to explain to your group the key things to know about hospice. And when they’ve finished with their remarks, they’ll be certain to ask, “Any questions?”

To schedule an informative talk about hospice care for your group in metro St. Louis, call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

 

Want to Help? Be a Hospice Volunteer!

The professional staff of Hope Hospice provides a broad array of services to our patients and their families. But Hope also depends on the help of our many volunteers.

Hope Hospice volunteers visit with patients and offer companionship and conversation during what can be a lonely time. For those who are facing death, having a new friend can do wonders for the spirit. It’s not always easy to be a good listener, but our volunteers work hard at it.

For volunteers, the rewards are many. Though they are not paid for their time and effort, they reap the emotional benefit that comes from helping another person. The value of these new human connections can immense. Listening to the stories told by Hope Hospice patients can help volunteers put their own lives in perspective.

Some Hope Hospice volunteers come from local nursing schools. For them, volunteering gives them new and different outlooks on patients and families. Some come from high schools. For teens, volunteering with a hospice presents a chance to interact with a completely different age group from their peers. Retired individuals with free time and plenty of energy are often looking for an opportunity to help. They make excellent volunteers.

You may not know that the state of Missouri requires all hospices to utilize the services of volunteers. Time spent with a hospice’s patients each week must include a percentage of volunteer time. At Hope Hospice, we endorse this mandate and constantly strive to exceed required minimums by a significant margin.

If you would like to consider becoming a Hope Hospice volunteer, we would love to hear from you. Please call 314-984-9800 and ask for C.J. Bilbrey, our Volunteer Coordinator. He can answer all your questions.

Being a hospice volunteer offers a sense of fulfillment for those who have time to give. At Hope Hospice, we appreciate all our volunteers. On behalf of our patients, family members and our professional staff, we thank you.