Tag Archives: New York Times

How To Choose A Hospice

A recent item posted on the New Old Age blog on the New York Times website offers guidance on selecting a hospice. Naomi Naierman of the American Hospice Foundation was interviewed and shared her thoughts.

“You have to become a very savvy consumer about what is likely to be the most important health care decision you make in your life,” she says.

She advises asking direct questions to hospice representatives. She says, “How receptive a hospice is to these questions is the first signal of their quality.”

“Hospices in some communities come and go. You want to be sure you’re not signing up with one that’s been around a few months or even a year.” (Hope Hospice is beginning its 8th year of operation in metro St. Louis.)

To those who might presume that all hospices are alike, she adds, “There’s a set of services that’s standard, but how much, what the intensity is — that varies a lot. Consumers need to know that.”

Regarding respite care, Naierman suggests, “It’s also a good question to ask: What kind of respite care do you offer, under what circumstances?”

Paula Span, who conducted the interview and wrote the piece, mentions, “It will be difficult for patients or families to undertake this research if they’ve waited until a few days before death. It sounds like another argument for enrolling in hospice early.”

Among the comments posted by readers, this one sums up the feelings of many survivors: “I am glad we called in hospice early, because [my husband] spent the last few months of his life in his own home, in familiar surroundings, cared for by family with support from hospice staff.”

At Hope Hospice we welcome your questions about hospice care, even if your need may be weeks, months or years away. Call us at 314-984-9800.

Hope Hospice serves patients and families in St. Louis city and county and in St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties.


How To Learn About Hospice

When it becomes known that a person is facing a potentially life-threating health crisis, the word “hospice” will inevitably be mentioned.

Even when treatment is going well, a family member, a friend, a fellow churchgoer, a co-worker, a neighbor or someone else you know is likely to ask if you have considered hospice for your loved one. If you are like many people, your reply will indicate that it is an option for “sometime down the road.”

No matter how far away “sometime down the road” may be, now is a good time to learn about hospice care and all it includes. Hospice patients and their families throughout the world are frequently surprised (in a good way) by the many elements of hospice care. Often, they only realize all the services that hospice care delivers after the patient has signed on with a hospice agency.

So how can a person learn about hospice before the time comes to seriously consider hospice care? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ask your friends. Talk to those who’ve had family members pass away in recent years. Ask them about their experiences with hospice. Ask them what they liked and if there was anything they didn’t like.
  2. Do research. Go online and search for “hospice care.” Go to Amazon.com for books about hospice. Visit your library for books on hospice.
  3. Call a hospice for information. You can call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800 ask questions. You may also request our brochure, which includes answers to many questions. We would be happy to send you one.
  4. Visit a hospice website. Our Hope Hospice website may be accessed by clicking HERE. Go to our FAQ page and our “About us” page for useful information.
  5. Check out the New Old Age blog on the New York Times website. Click HERE for good information and opinion. (Note: You may have to pay for continued access to this and other New York Times web content.)

As writer Jane Gross points out in one of the posts on the NYT’s New Old Age blog, “Don’t wait for a crisis.” Act now to learn what you need to know about hospice.

More On The Cost/Value Of Hospice

An amazing statistic appeared in a recent New York Times op-ed column. According to writer Susan Jacoby, “A third of the Medicare budget is now spent in the last year of life, and a third of that goes for care in the last month.” The column also states “the average hospital stay costs Medicare over $6,000 a day.”

Those are startling numbers. If you have recently filed taxes, you may have noted on your W-2 form the significant amount of your 2011 income that went directly to Medicare. (And that amount is not deductible.) Whatever the amount, you would probably have preferred to have that money in your own pocket.

Consider the amount of money that could be saved by Medicare (and we whose contributions fund it) if those who are dying in hospitals chose to die at home, under hospice care.

Another note regarding the massive hospital bills that are accumulated by those who prefer to die connected to tubes and monitors in a hospital: families are often obliged to pay some of the costs that are not covered by Medicare, including the tab for certain drugs. Whereas patients on hospice care are not obliged to make additional payments to the hospice agency.

How do you know if your loved one would prefer to spend his or her last weeks and months in the comfort of home? (As opposed to being in a hospital.) You ask. And you ask early in the dying process, when the patient still has a grip on reality.

These conversations can be difficult to get started. But once the topic is addressed, you may discover that your loved one has thoughts and desires that have never been voiced. And, like with many such dialogues we conduct in our lives, they often turn out to be much less uncomfortable than anticipated.

Hospice care is a money-saver for Medicare when compared to the cost of hospital in-patient care. Hospice care can also be a money-saver for families of patients whose hospitalization coverage is less than complete. But the main concern of families and health care providers should be patient comfort. That is always the top priority of Hope Hospice staff and administrators.

To learn more about hospice and all the elements of care provided, call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800. Or click on HopeHospiceStL.com.