The benefits of hospice far out weight the fear associated with the word
BY VICKIE WACASTER
COMFORT CARE HOSPICE
It is no secret since that since 1982, hospices in the United States have been trying to convince healthcare professionals and families to choose hospice for the exceptional care it provides when there is no reasonable hope of a cure or benefit for continuing curative treatments. Perhaps a good question to ask is, “what should medicine do when it can’t save a life?”
I believe it is the Medicare Hospice Benefit certification form’s wording of the “six month or less prognosis” eligibility requirement that serves as a deterrent for some physicians, family members, patients, and medical facility professionals to talk about hospice. However, Medicare acknowledges that life expectancy is not an exact science and there are no penalties if the patient lives longer than 6 months. The Medicare Hospice Benefit consists of two 90-day benefit periods followed by an unlimited number of 60-day benefit periods. Each benefit period requires medical certification of the life-limiting illness at the beginning of the period. The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the cost of hospice care and service for every medically certified benefit period regardless of the patient’s length of stay in the hospice program.
Interestingly, an article in the “New Yorker” describes a study showing that hospice patients sometimes even live longer than patients who are not receiving hospice: “…researchers followed 4,493 Medicare patients with either terminal cancer or congestive heart failure. They found no difference in survival time between hospice and non-hospice patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Curiously, hospice care seemed to extend survival for some patients; those with pancreatic cancer gained an average of three weeks, those with lung cancer gained six weeks, and those with congestive heart failure gained three months.” Hospice offers comfort, care, and assistance that helps maintain a better quality of life for the patient facing the end of life
On the other hand, think of all the people you know who have died without having access to the 24-hour, on-call support that would have prevented unnecessary trips to the emergency room or admissions to the hospital, who did not have the expert pain and symptom management from the hospice nurses and physicians, and who never reaped the financial benefit of hospice, a program that includes professional staff visits to the home, medicines, treatments, equipment, supplies, respite care, crisis care, and bereavement care for the survivors – all fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurers. In other words, hospice is one of the best health care programs available today. The benefits of hospice far out-weight the fear of the word.
Hospice care is available for terminally ill patients who are no longer receiving curative treatment and have an advanced terminal illness/disease. The patient’s primary physician usually initiates the referral process; however, case managers, hospital or nursing home personnel, clergy members, family members, or other health-care professionals may contact hospice and inquire about the services and benefits.
Our goal in hospice is to collaborate with all healthcare professionals and the public to broaden education and understanding of hospice. Hospice provides a specialty service and the referring physician remains as involved it the care of their patient as they wish to be.
We at Comfort Care Hospice hold dear to our heart the words of Dame Cicley Saunders (1967): “You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die”.