Imagine a specialized type of care that addresses the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of an individual with a life-limiting illness. Imagine that this care is delivered by a team of compassionate experts, specially trained on end-of-life symptom management, who address the needs not only of the individual, but of the immediate family members. Imagine that this type of care can be delivered in the comfort of your own home.
Does this pique your interest?
According to Katie Wehri, CHC, CHPC, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, an expert in the hospice industry, individuals and families are typically interested in this type of specialized care, until the word “hospice” comes into play. Unfortunately, the word “hospice” tends to have a negative connotation for many people because they automatically associate it with imminent death. But as Wehri points out, rather than seeing hospice in a negative light, she encourages people to re-frame their perceptions and view hospice as a choice along a continuum of care.
Two questions Wehri is often asked are, how do you bring up hospice, and when is it appropriate to look at hospice care as an option? For the former question, Wehri suggests assessing the issues and symptoms the patient is facing – pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, etc. Consider how hospice could help manage these symptoms.
As to when hospice should be considered, Wehri, like others in the field, strongly believes the earlier hospice is called, the sooner the patient and family will benefit. She suggests assessing the patient’s overall health in the past year – is it declining, or remaining the same? Does she/he still recover in a timely manner after treatments and surgeries? What are the benefits and burdens of medications, chemotherapy, or other treatment options? Has there been a change in the patient’s ability to perform activities of daily living? Have there been recent admissions to the hospital or ER?
Wehri encourages patients and their families to determine the best service to help, based upon the individual’s needs and issues at a given time. That may be palliative care, which has many of the same guiding principles as hospice, but patients continue to receive curative treatment, or it may be a situation where a patient goes in and out of hospice care.
Because many patients today have multiple physicians and specialists on their health care teams, Wehri says that unfortunately, hospice care is not recommended as early as it could be. In addition to national and state hospice associations that can be helpful, Wehri suggests working with senior or elder care managers or nurse practitioners who specialize in patient advocacy or end-of-life care.
Hospice has been shown to provide a more fulfilling end-of-life experience, and Wehri believes it’s never too early to call and investigate the option of hospice care. While many people in the United States feel uncomfortable discussing death and end-of-life care, these are important subjects that warrant thoughtful, honest conversation. Wehri encourages individuals to make sure family and friends know about their wishes and the type of care that is most important to them. That way, at the appropriate time, care to accommodate those wishes can be accessed.
Today, more and more managed care companies see the benefits of hospice — not limited to a specific time, but as a concept and approach to care. Looking forward, Wehri sees hospice continuing to grow in acceptance, especially as Baby Boomers age.
To learn more about hospice care, including how and when to access this approach to end-of-life care, listen to the full interview with Katie Wheri in the Help Choose Home podcast series by searching for “Help Choose Home” on iTunes, Google, or on any device at https://player.fm/series/help-choose-home.
The Help Choose Home podcast series is a joint effort between the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), Axxess, and corecubed. The vision is to provide information and resources to help those with a care need learn more about adult home care services. Podcasts are hosted by Merrily Orsini, president and CEO of corecubed, an industry leader offering marketing strategies for elder care agencies.