It can be devastating when a parent, grandparent, sibling, or other relative is diagnosed with a terminal disease and told that they have less than six months left to live. In addition to strong emotions such as fear, worry, sadness, and even anger, most folks feel overwhelmed by the details and difficult decisions that lie ahead.
Hospice care providers can help shoulder this burden. Kenneth Haglind, President and Co-Founder of Minnesota Hospice, wants to make sure that everyone understands the value of hospice care.
Q: What Is the Goal of Hospice?
A: “The goal of hospice is, first and foremost, to make the patient as comfortable as possible in their last months or weeks of life. However, hospice team members also play an enormous role in assisting the patient’s caretakers and family,” Kenneth Haglind explained.
Q: When Does a Patient Need Hospice Care?
A: Ken Haglind explains that terminally ill patients are referred to hospice when their doctors determine that they have six months or less left to live.
Q: Where Does Hospice Care Take Place?
A: “Spending one’s last months or weeks in a hospital is never ideal. One of the major benefits of hospice care is that it can often take place in a patient’s own home, whether that is their house, an assisted living community, or a skilled nursing facility. In other instances, a patient can go to a freestanding hospice center, where all medical issues can be treated but which has a homier, more comfortable atmosphere than a hospital,” says Kenneth Haglind of Minnesota Hospice.
Q: Who Is on a Hospice Team?
A: A hospice team comprises a number of professionals, as well as volunteers, each dedicated to the goal of helping a patient be as comfortable as possible. According to Ken Haglind, a typical team includes:
-Registered Nurses, nurse assistants
-Licensed vocational nurses
-Certified nursing assistant and home health aides
-Licensed social workers
-Chaplains and spiritual care counselors
-Speech, physical, or occupational therapists
-Integrative therapies such as massage and music therapists
Q: What Do Hospice Volunteers Do?
A: In short, Ken Haglind says, just about anything that the medical team members don’t. They can run errands, prepare light meals or do light housekeeping, or simply lend a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on — for both the patient and their loved ones. Volunteers are also called on to provide brief respite care, staying with the patient so that their family members can have a break from the demands of caretaking.
Q: Are There Licensing Requirements for Hospice Providers?
A: “Yes, on the state level. Additionally, hospices are required to comply with federal regulations and undergo regular evaluations to ensure they are in compliance. Hospice programs are also certified for reimbursement under Medicare,” Ken Haglind of Minnesota Hospice explained.
Q: When Are Hospice Team Members Available?
A: Ken Haglind says, “because the symptoms and pain of life-limiting illnesses do not follow a 9-5 schedule, neither do hospice workers. At the minimum, a nurse will be on call 24/7 and able to respond to a patient’s needs by phone or a face to face visit. Some hospice programs also keep chaplains, social workers, and others on call, as well.”
If you are interested in hospice care for yourself or a loved one, Kenneth Haglind advises that you speak to your (or your loved one’s) physician to determine whether hospice is appropriate. They can also refer you to a hospice program in your local area.