How can Hospice Help?

Jen Dunn, Director of Home Health & Hospice
Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840

How can Hospice Help?

It is understandable that when someone is nearing the end of life it can be very challenging for the individual and their loved ones. Hospice care focuses on making this period of transition as peaceful and comfortable as possible for everyone involved.

While many could benefit from hospice care, most people wait too long. Maybe they are afraid to discuss it with their family or physician, or don’t know how to access hospice, or don’t realize how it could benefit them. Many of our families tell us that had they understood hospice and all the support it could provide to them, they would have sought assistance from our team much sooner. It is important to have a discussion with your healthcare provider and let them know early on if you or your loved one is interested in recieveing hospice care (if and when it may become appropriate). Remember, receiving hospice care will not extened nor shorten life, but assist in improving the quality of time that is left.

Here are answers to questions we are frequently asked regarding hospice services and philosophy.

What is Hospice?

Hospice is care focused on providing comfort and quality for patients and families facing end of life challenges. It aims to treat, prevent or relieve the symptoms of a life-threatening illness, but not to cure it. Hospice caregivers strive to honor the dignity and choices of each patient and family to help them remain in control of their care plan. Hospice encompasses each person's unique physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. Our team provides support to the patient, caregivers, family and friends both prior to, and after death.

Who qualifies for Hospice services?

Hospice care is appropriate for anyone with a terminal/qualifying diagnosis, a less than six month life expectancy, and for those who have chosen to seek pain and symptom management instead of life prolonging treatments. If your condition improves, or if you choose to pursue curative treatments, or even if you change your mind, you can revoke participation at any time.

What services does Hospice provide?

We offer an interdisciplinary team of nurses, certified aides, social workers, therapists, chaplains, pharmacists, volunteers and a medical director who work alongside you, your family and your personal physician. Our goal is to provide treatment of the person rather than the disease and to focus on quality rather than quantity of life. Services include thorough assessments, development of a comprehensive care plan, pain and symptom relief, medications related to the terminal diagnosis, medical supplies and equipment, education for caregivers, spiritual and emotional support, bereavement counseling, personal assistance and companionship and on-call hospice nurses 24/7 to answer questions or make home visits if necessary.

Where is Hospice Care provided?

Hospice services may be provided either in the patient’s place of residence (home, skilled nursing facility, assisted living facility) or in a Hospice Center, depending on each individual’s needs and situation. The Marcuds Daly Hospice Center also provides temporary respite care when caregivers need a break as well as long term, inpatient care. When utilizing Hospice services in the home, typically a spouse, child or paid care provider will serve as the primary caregiver with Hospice staff and volunteers making regular visits to assist, educate and enhance the quality of care. Specific visit frequency, level of care and team member involvement will depend on each patient’s needs, their hospice plan of care and the patient’s current condition.

Who pays for Hospice?

Hospice benefits are available to patients with Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and many private insurance plans.

How Can I be referred to Hospice?

Referrals for hospice care may come from many possible sources, including physicians, other healthcare providers, family members or prospective patients themselves.

When is the right time to talk about end of life care?

It’s never too early! Start the conversation about end of life care with your loved ones. Ask questions about wishes for treatments and goals for care. Consider completing your advanced directives together. Advanced directives are documents that express how you would want to be treated if you were seriously ill and unable to make decisions for yourself. Examples of advanced directives are living wills, medical powers of attorney and provider ordes for life sustaining treatments (POLST). The Montana’s End-of-Life Registry has extensive information available on advance directives and actual forms you can fill out at www.msuextension.org. Then, have a conversation with your healthcare provider if you are wondering about hospice care. You may also wish to contact a hospice provider directly and request that a hospice representative meet with you to assist in determining if you qualify for hospice services, assist in the referral process or discuss payment options.

The last months, weeks and days of life are just as important as the first. Hospice programs can offer unique benefits that make this time as meaningful and painfree as possible. The sooner you call, the sooner hospice can help. Patients are typically referred too late in their illness and gain only limited benefit to all the services that we can offer. Ask your healthcare provider about hospice services or call your local hospice team to find out how they may be able to assist you in living your life to the fullest, to the very end.

Join us at the Marcus Daly Hospice Tree of Lights on Thursday, December 7th at 5pm at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in conference rooms Blodgett and Canyon View. Take this opportunity to reflect and remember those we love during this special season. Enjoy homemade soup, bread and treats followed by a remembrance ceremony and the lighting of the hospice holiday tree!

Questions and or comments regarding this week’s health column please contact, Jen Dunn, Director Home Health and Hospice at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton, MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!

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