Frequently asked questions about hospice

Published 7:30 am Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Following are some frequently asked questions we hear about hospice. Perhaps it will help you and your family.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

What is hospice? A hospice program provides care and support for you and your family when dealing with a terminal illness. Hospice enhances comfort and improves quality of life. This treatment includes physical, social, spiritual, and emotional care.

What diseases qualify someone for hospice? Cancer, heart disease, lung disease, dementia or Alzheimer’s, renal disease, liver disease, stroke or coma, neurological disease (ALS, Parkinson’s, etc.), HIV.

What indicators are present in patients appropriate for hospice care? Multiple emergency room visits and hospital stays; Increased or uncontrolled pain; Recurrent infections; Unintentional weight loss; Uncontrolled nausea and vomiting; Shortness of breath; Continued decline in physical and mental status; Weakness and fatigue; Changes that require multiple visits to the physician; Change in mental status; Continuous oxygen; History of cardiac arrest.

Who qualifies for hospice? At any time during a life limiting illness when you would like to move from a treatment plan focused on curing the disease to a plan focused on providing comfort and relief, you may chose hospice care.

Why should I choose hospice care? Hospice is about living. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death, but affirms life, emphasizing dignity and comfort while enhancing quality of life for both you and your family. Hospice treats the person, not the disease.

Is hospice covered by insurance? Hospice is a covered benefit under Medicare and Medicaid in Alabama. Most private health insurance policies offer hospice coverage and benefits.

Where are hospice services provided? Hospice care can be provided in the comfort of your home as well as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

How does hospice manage pain? The hospice staff works with you, your family and physician to develop a pain management plan that is right for your needs. Hospice doctors and nurses are up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. Using a combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients can be kept pain free and comfortable.

Can a hospice patient that shows signs of improvement be returned to curative treatment? Yes. If your condition improves or the disease is in remission, you can be discharged from hospice and return to curative treatment.

If you have questions about hospice, please do not hesitate to speak with your physician or a hospice of your choice.

I finish today’s column with a quote from Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker, author, consultant, and minister. “Knowledge isn’t power, applied knowledge is power.”

— Vickie C. Wacaster is a Patient and Hospice Advocate for Aveanna Hospice.