Hospice: What It Is and How It Can Help Your Family

Caregiving for a loved one who is nearing end of life requires coordinated intensive care. Hospice supports patients and their families through the final stages of a terminal disease, such as Alzheimer’s, with specialized services to help manage pain and increase their quality of life.

Learn more about this health care option and when you should consider it.

What’s hospice?

Hospice is a type of health care that focuses on increasing comfort and improving quality of life for terminally ill patients. Coordinated care of hospice patients is managed by an interdisciplinary team. Based on the individual needs of the patient and family as well as the level of care needed, members of the team can include a medical director, director of patient care services, nurse case manager, home health aide, social worker, spiritual care coordinator, bereavement coordinator and/or volunteer.

Levels of care:

  • Routine hospice care: The most common level of care; this is hospice care in the home.
  • Continuous home care: Predominantly nursing care with assistance from caregivers and aides. Provided between 8-24 hours a day and used during a time of crisis in the home.
  • Inpatient respite care: Provides temporary relief to the patient’s primary caregiver. Can be provided in a hospital, hospice facility or long-term care facility with 24-hour nursing.
  • General inpatient care: Most intensive care, only used when other methods are not sufficient. Can be provided in a hospital, hospice facility or long-term care facility with 24-hour nursing.

Who qualifies for this care?

Generally, candidates for hospice have a life expectancy of six months or less. While this and hospice eligibility can only be determined by a doctor, some guidelines include (but are not limited to):

  • A prognosis of six months or less
  • The decision to forego life-prolonging treatments or there are no treatments available
  • Observable and documented deterioration in the patient’s overall condition in the last four to six months

How can hospice help my family?

Most people would like to end their lives in a peaceful environment surrounded by their loved ones. When medical treatments have been exhausted or the burden of treatment outweighs the benefits, it may be time to consider hospice. By bringing services into the home, or whatever care setting best meets your needs, the hospice experience can foster spiritual and personal growth as the team makes life more comfortable for your loved one and educates, empowers and supports you and your family through this difficult time.

Based on your customized plan of care, hospice services can include:

  • Symptom control and pain management
  • Nutrition support
  • Continence care and personal hygiene
  • Physical, occupational and/or speech therapy
  • Physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual support
  • Advanced directive assistance
  • Caregiver respite
  • Bereavement counseling and funeral planning guidance

What hospice doesn’t cover:

  • Care unrelated to terminal or related diagnoses
  • Medications and supplies not covered by insurance
  • Curative or aggressive treatment

Due to the slow decline of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related disorders, it can be difficult to know when hospice is an appropriate option for your family. Unsure if your loved one qualifies? Consult with our dementia care specialists at 817-877-1199 and request an evaluation from your doctor.