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What is hospice?
If you have heard that hospice is only for the dying, you may not have the right impression. It's really here to help those with terminal conditions live life to the fullest as long as possible. Hospice is a concept of care, not a specific place of care. We emphasize comfort rather than curative treatment and quality of life rather than quantity of life. Our care is tailored to your needs; we provide comfort and symptom relief. A team of nurses, physicians, home health aides (CNAs), volunteers, social workers, and chaplains work diligently and closely with you to meet you and your family's needs.
How does hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a 'referral' is made by your doctor. In that instance, we will call the your or your caregiver to discuss this and schedule a visit – usually within 12 to 48 hours – to share with you what FHN Hospice has to offer, and for us to determine which hospice services you or your loved one may qualify for. Care can begin as soon as the decision is made to accept hospice care.
In some instances, a doctor may not have yet made a referral and someone in the family is exploring health care options. We can still make an informational visit to help you determine the type of care which might work best for you and your loved one.
Is hospice available 'after hours?'
Yes! We are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Our nurses are available to respond to calls for help within minutes, and to make patient visits day or night – whenever needed. Our general administrative offices are open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
What role does the hospice volunteer serve?
Hospice volunteers are generally available to provide different types of support to patients and their loved ones. Volunteers supplement the care provided by the professional staff. This can mean staying with a patient to give the family members a break (respite); friendly visits to provide emotional support and companionship to patients and family members, especially in nursing homes; running errands; preparing light meals, and much more. Our volunteers also provide music, singing, veteran honors, storykeeping, and art and pet therapy. These services are tailored to each patient's needs and interests.
FHN Hospice volunteers go through a lengthy training program, and they share the commitment to compassionate care demonstrated by our staff.
Can I be cared for by hospice if I reside in a nursing facility or other type of long-term care facility?
Definitely! Hospice services can be provided to you wherever you live. This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility can receive specialized visits from FHN Hospice nurses, home health aides (CNAs), chaplains, social workers, and volunteers, in addition to other care and services provided by the nursing facility. FHN Hospice has written agreements in place in order for our hospice to partner with the facility staff to best serve its residents.
Who Will Take Care of Me?
We know that no one wants to be alone through a difficult time, so at FHN Hospice we work closely with our patients and their families and friends to develop a plan of care that is right for them. Our staff and volunteers cannot be with the patient 24 hours a day, but we can help you figure out how you will care for your loved one, whether it is through friends or family coming to the home or with outside caregiving programs.
How long can a patient receive hospice care?
Indefinitely, depending on the course of your illness. Determining how long someone will live, otherwise known as the prognosis, is not an exact science. An individual may receive hospice care as long as a physician certifies the continuing need for hospice care. Your situation will be reviewed regularly to ensure that the care you're receiving is appropriate to the situation.
When is it time for hospice?
A diagnosis of a life-limiting illness is the best time to investigate hospice. Even though you may not need us right away, by learning about the advantages of hospice services you'll have a better idea of when it may be right for you. We always recommend that doctors, patients, and families discuss hospice at the time of their terminal diagnosis so that patients can consider this option as soon as they are eligible.
So many of our patients tell us, "Your care and support has been so wonderful, we wish we had called you sooner". Too many people spend their final months in and out of the hospital in medical crisis rather than living their life comfortably with family and friends.
To help you decide whether it might be time for hospice care, here are some questions to consider:
Have you or a loved one...
- Been hospitalized several times in the last six months?
- Used medication more frequently to ease pain symptoms?
- Needed help with two or more of the following?
- Getting out of bed or a chair
- Had unexplained weight loss in the last year?
- Had shortness of breath while resting?
- Been diagnosed with a serious illness by a doctor and told that life expectancy is limited?
No matter how you answered, call FHN Hospice to review your options. We can help you think through what might be best for you and your family.
Does accepting hospice care mean giving up?
Absolutely not! FHN Hospice can help you and your loved ones address your fears and concerns. We believe that entering hospice means that you may no longer be hoping for a cure, but that you are now hoping for the best quality of life you can have. With hospice care, the focus of hope shifts toward physical comfort and peace of mind during the final stages of life. For more than 20 years, we have helped thousands of patients and family members through this difficult time and we recognize that every patient and family is unique.
Do I have to wait for my physician to tell me about hospice care?
No! While anyone can make a referral call, the decision to choose hospice should be made by the patient and family, with the input of their physician. Throughout the course of the illness, open and honest discussion about treatment options is very important, and that includes the benefits and burdens of treatment, as well as the option of choosing hospice care when the time is appropriate. If you or your family feels the physician is reluctant to discuss hospice care, it is always appropriate to broach the subject or call FHN Hospice for information.
It is important to talk about end-of-life care with your loved ones and your physician so they will know your wishes. Talking about hospice care and other treatment options before care is needed may make the decision easier for you or a loved one.
FHN Hospice offers complimentary copies of Beginning the Conversation; It's time to face the elephant in the room
. This booklet helps you think about choices you may want to include in your advance directives.
FHN Hospice periodically offers educational sessions explaining the importance of advance directives
and how to set them up.
Call the FHN Hospice 815-599-7240 to request a copy of this booklet.
What if I use hospice but then get better?
Great! Sometimes, a terminally ill patient's health improves or their illness goes into remission. If that occurs, your doctor may recommend that you no longer need hospice care. You may decide to stop hospice care at any time. Then if your health should decline again, your doctor may recommend hospice services again, and you may resume our care.
Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Definitely not. The hospice philosophy of care is to keep the patient as comfortable and independent as he or she wishes during the natural course of the terminal disease. Hospice seeks neither to hasten nor prolong the dying process. The prevailing fears many people have about death are of dying in pain, of being isolated from others, of being a financial burden, and of losing control.
FHN Hospice addresses these fears by providing expert pain and symptom control, offering companionship and emotional support to the patient and family, designing a plan of care dictated by the wishes of the patient, and providing our services regardless of your ability to pay. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during childbirth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
Who pays for hospice care?
Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans benefits cover the cost of hospice care. Most private insurance plans also cover hospice care. The reimbursements vary by plan. In addition, since we are a department of FHN and because of generous support from our community and families, no patient is ever turned away because of an inability to pay.
How long do hospice patients live?
Lengths of stays in hospice vary. Neither you nor we know how long you may live or be a patient with us. We do know, however, that studies have shown that patients who receive hospice care earlier in their disease process are more comfortable, enjoy a better quality of life.
Depending on the progression of your condition and the time of referral, the length of stay in hospice care can vary greatly. Some people believe that a person qualifies for hospice only if he or she is bedridden, unable to care for him or herself, or acutely dying. This is untrue. Many of our patients are still quite mobile, able to care for themselves and can participate actively in daily living. We have had patients who have lived a year or more in our care while continuing to meet hospice guidelines. Early referral to FHN Hospice can help ensure that a patient receives the maximum benefits available.
Sadly, the reality is that many patients come to hospice just days or hours before death. When someone is referred to hospice care very late, the patient and family's priority may be to focus on bringing pain and symptoms under control, and there is little time to develop a plan of care that incorporates the patient's and family's emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. While we believe that a patient can benefit from even one day of hospice care, we know that optimal holistic care is best achieved when a referral is made early.
No one can accurately predict how an illness will run its course or how long a person will live, but in accordance with Medicare regulations, a physician must certify that to the best of his or her knowledge, the patient will live six months or less if the patient's condition progresses naturally. This does not mean that a hospice patient cannot live longer than six months. Patients can be recertified and remain under the care of hospice if they continue to meet certain criteria specific to their illness. Occasionally, a patient's condition will improve so that he or she no longer meets qualifications for hospice care. If this occurs, the patient can be discharged and readmitted when hospice care is needed again.
Can I choose to discontinue hospice care once I am admitted?
Of course. You have the right to revoke hospice services if you wish to pursue other treatment options. You may also be discharged from hospice if your condition improves or does not decline as expected, but you can be readmitted later if you still qualify.