By Susan A. Worline, M.Ed
Why are so many people afraid of Hospice care? Is it because our society is afraid of talking about death or dying? Is it because our society has not been educated enough? BINGO!!!
The last several years working in Hospice I have come to realize that there is still a lot more educating that has to be done. When talking with families about hospice the majority think by using hospice services they are “giving up” when truthfully it is the opposite. For example, when someone refers a patient to hospice the family thinks it is a matter of days. Sometimes it is because the family didn’t utilize hospice services sooner. However, what they don’t know is that patients put on hospice care live 33% longer than if they were not on hospice care because of the continuity of care provided.
What patients and families don’t realize is that they have already given themselves the GIFT of hospice by paying into their Medicare benefit, paying insurance premiums, etc. Every time someone receives a paycheck from their job Medicare takes out a certain amount of money to put on the side for in the event you become seriously ill you have the opportunity to utilize the hospice benefit you have already worked hard for your entire life.
In 1983, Medicare decided to add hospice care as a benefit. Medicare also made the rule that in order to utilize hospice that they have to have a life limiting illness and that a person has 6 months or less to live. Now honestly, the statement “6 months or less” scares people. However, it is only a guideline/rule set by Medicare to make sure the benefit is not taken advantage of. Furthermore, if one wants to utilize the Medicare benefit an order has to be written by a physician.
So what happens when 6 months are up and a patient is still alive? At the 6th month, if a person is on hospice care, a physician must see the patient and do a face to face. If the physician feels they still meet the hospice care benefit the patient is recertified and continues to receive the hospice benefit.
So what if you or your loved one is already on hospice care and you are not happy and/or satisfied with the services? What can you do? Since hospice is a benefit to the patient and the family a patient can do a simple transfer to another hospice of their choice.
There is a reason why hospice is available to our communities, to give a patient and their families their quality of life back, the care they deserve, and the comfort of not being in pain so they can live their best days.
Hospice is a gift and not a burden, but in the event you try hospice care and you are not satisfied with the gift that has already been bestowed upon you, you can give the gift back….no questions ask…it’s your benefit.