Take note. This is an excellent question, and it may be the relief you and your family have been looking for.
First, let me be clear about a major misconception. Hospice is a service, not a place. Hospice is a form of care specific to people who are diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses, such as an incurable or end-stage disease. Hospice comes to you and can be provided in whatever living arrangement you are currently in. Its purpose is to provide comfort, support and quality of life for its patients, and the patients’ families who are experiencing this process with them.
Hospice care has been around since the late ’60s, thanks to a passionate physician by the name of Dame Cicely Saunders. In the beginning, the focus of care was very much on the dying process, which led way to another common misconception — that being on hospice is a “death sentence.” Inviting hospice into your life does not mean you are giving up or inviting death in the front door. Hospice has since evolved and expanded its realm of care. In fact, many patients are only with hospice temporarily. When proper, adequate care is administered, a terminal illness can be stabilized, allowing a patient to move on to live their life more independently.
Hospice care is offered by various independent hospice agencies throughout the Valley. They are operated by qualified medical teams comprised of registered nurses, doctors, medical social workers, CNAs, and pharmacists, to name a few. With that said, it is very important to understand that Hospice care does not have to replace your doctor or current medical routine. It is simply a supplement to the care you currently have. This means you can still work with your regular doctors. You can still receive the usual care from your caregivers. You still maintain control of your medical decisions.
Hospice agencies are regulated by the federal government and abide by Medicare guidelines. This does not mean that every hospice agency is the same, however. Each agency offers the same basic services, but also offers its own variation of additional services. Hospice even provides the appropriate medical equipment and supplies specific to your needs, at no cost to you. Equipment such as disposable briefs and wound-care supplies or oxygen tanks and wheelchairs are a few examples.
Hospice care is covered 100 percent by Medicare. If Medicare does not apply to you, then check with your insurance company. Most policies have a hospice care benefit. Don’t have either Medicare or private insurance? Talk to a hospice rep anyway. Like most of us in the industry, they have resources, and can usually help you get this figured out. The point is, expense should not hold you back from looking into this valuable service. Everyone deserves the best care possible. Of the various resources available to us, hospice should never be overlooked.
There are so many wonderful resources available to help ease the burden that aging and illness sometimes bring along. Hospice is one of those resources. It costs you nothing, yet it’s about as valuable a service as you can ask for. There is no reason for you or your family to endure these trying times all alone. There are not enough hours in the day to handle it all yourself. You know that, I know that, and hospice providers know that. Let them help. Email me if you have any questions or if you need any additional information.
• Stacey Conkle is a longtime East Valley resident and community liaison working closely with seniors and their families during times of transition. Send questions and comments to Stacey@generationsofamerica.org.