The focus of hospice care should be to provide care to patients and their loved ones during the last few months of life. Hospice can provide both support and guidance and make sure that all of a person’s emotional and physical needs are satisfied. The treatment offered at hospices changes from that of either controlling or curing the illness to keeping the highest quality of life possible. If you ultimately decide that you no longer want active treatment or are told that your cancer can no longer be controlled, it can help to consider hospice care.
Many hospice programs exist in the United States. While big cities have several hospices, smaller communities often have one or two. To qualify for a hospice, your medical team must provide information stating you are in the final stages of cancer and are expected to have less than six months to live. This guideline is frequently used because it can be difficult to give a specific estimate of how much time someone has before they pass away.
To obtain the best possible care that a hospice offers, it’s a good idea to make use of a hospice’s services several months before someone passes away instead of the last days or weeks. You should ask your medical provider about what type of hospice care exists in your area. The American Cancer Society is a great resource that offers various details about hospice services in your area.
Hospice Care for Mesothelioma Patients
The care provided by hospice is focused on reducing the severity of symptoms as well as improving the quality of life for mesothelioma patients. People with mesothelioma as well as their loved ones might consider hospice care after a patient is diagnosed with six months to live.
The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is around one year. Many families who have a loved one facing mesothelioma end up relying on hospices to provide health care as well as support services.
As someone with mesothelioma, picking to receive hospice services does not mean that you have given up. Also if you are the caregiver of someone with mesothelioma, choosing to receive hospice care for your loved one does not mean you have given up. The services offered by hospices are about providing comfort and maintaining as high a quality of life for patients as possible.
Hospices provide care for mesothelioma patients ranging from basic services to complete care at inpatient locations. These services do not prolong the life of mesothelioma patients, but make sure they end their journey in as pain-free and comfortable an environment as possible.
Some Real Life Hospice Stories
As you contemplate utilizing a hospice, it might help to consider some real-life stories like the following:
- Patient # 1 was a strong and independent man. In the final years of the man’s life, his health rapidly began deteriorating. The man’s decision to ultimately use a hospice was to obtain peace of mind that the man would have some assistance and not need to proceed through things alone. The man had an excellent nurse and medical team that provided around-the-clock service for any needs that the man or his loved ones had. The medical team also had a good appreciation for how the hospice worked and adequately communicated details about the situation.
- Patient # 2 was married and had a child in college when he signed the admission papers for hospice. The child and mother spent the father’s remaining time with him. The family bonded over watching movies and other special moments. The hospice care was ultimately short and because the father chose to stay with him, it did not seem that much different to the family than everyday life.
- Patient # 3 made up his mind following discharge from the hospital that he would not return to the hospital to die. Instead, the man asked a friend to let him die in his own home. Due to the number of times that the man had to be put on a ventilator, his loved ones knew the warning signs. Armed with this information, the man’s loved ones had a good idea of when he would pass away. Ultimately, the loved ones called a pastor to speak with them and reviewed their strategy with a hospice nurse. The man-made funeral arrangements before passing away because it was important to a man to address as many things as he could before passing away. The loved ones and the man ultimately decided that they would face the transition together.
- Patient # 4’s daughter did not do much planning when her father was preparing to pass away. The daughter did not know what to do to prepare for the situation. The daughter did not leave her father’s side until she had to do so. The daughter tried to spend as much time with the father as she could. The daughter noted that emotions are high in these situations and that whenever possible loved ones should do their best to breathe deeply and focus on positive experiences.
- Patient # 5’s loved ones noted that it was not easy since he passed. They also commented that cancer leads to various changes, but that the family maintained trust that God was in control of things and that they did not live with any regrets. The family noted that following the diagnosis they felt a struggle to either let mesothelioma take away everything that they had or they could fight to make the best possible memories.
- Patient #6’s daughter noted that life without her father has been difficult and that she is still adjusting and grieving the loss. The daughter stated that she has not yet accepted that her father will not return. When the father first passed away, the daughter states she had a difficult time caring about anything and did not attend classes. The daughter that two years later has continued her normal life but still finds it difficult to date people because her father will never know them. The daughter states that she knows that her father is watching over her and that she will be reunited with her father one day. The daughter stated that life never becomes easier but that people become stronger.
Where Hospices Provide Care
Hospices provide care to patients wherever they are located. Consider the following about a patient’s location and services offered by hospices:
- Services offered by hospices can be provided wherever a patient lives. This is true if a patient resides in a private residence, with a loved one, at an assisted care facility, or at a nursing home.
- Some hospices offer long-term residential care centers where patients can receive services. When hospice care is offered at residential facilities, the patient or the patient’s loved ones remain responsible for costs connected to a residence in the same way that they would for any other home.
- If someone requires around-the-clock care, hospices can transport a patient to an inpatient facility for a short period to address symptoms with the focus that the patient will ultimately return home.
How People Pay for Hospice Services
Like most types of medical care, one of the most common questions that people ask about hospice services is how they will pay for these services. Some of the important details about paying for hospice services include:
- Most hospice patients qualify for Medicare, which pays for all parts of hospice care. While there is no deductible for services provided by hospices, there is sometimes a small prescription co-payment. Medicaid offers similar services in most states.
- Many insurance carriers that are obtained privately like insurance offered through employers or the national marketplace offer hospice benefits. The degree to which this insurance pays for hospice services frequently differs from Medicaid. How much of the hospice services are paid for also varies greatly between insurance plans.
- Families of military veterans have hospice coverage that is provided through Tricare. The Veteran Health Administration provides hospice services as well as enters into contracts with local providers of hospice services. Any veteran with the Veterans Health Administration’s Standard Medical Benefits package is viewed as eligible and there is no co-pay.
- Hospices also accept private payment or “self-pay” for services.
When You Should Start Hospice Care
Hospice care is commonly utilized when a disease like mesothelioma reaches the point where a person is no longer able to control or cure their condition. Hospice care should be utilized when a person is expected to live around 6 months or less if the condition runs its natural course. Individuals with advanced cancer like mesothelioma should engage in discussions with their family members to determine when hospice care should start.
Studies reveal that hospice care is frequently not begun early enough. Sometimes, medical staff or loved ones resist hospice because they believe that it means giving up. In reality, people can leave hospice whenever they like and pursue additional cancer treatment. Hospice introduces a quality of life to someone impacted by mesothelioma so they can make the best of each day they have remaining in the final stages of a serious illness.
Some doctors do not raise the subject of hospice, which means that either the patient or the patient’s loved ones might have to bring up this subject. If your cancer treatment is no longer working and you have exhausted treatment options, you might consider asking your doctor or someone on your cancer team about the possibility of hospice.
What Type Of Care do Hospices Provide?
All hospices must offer distinct services, but these facilities often have different approaches to how they provide things like staffing, service, and what types of services are offered. Some of the things most commonly offered by hospices include:
- Palliative care and control of symptoms. Sometimes referred to as palliative care or comfort care, palliative care is distinct from hospice care. Palliative care is often a part of hospice care, though, especially if cancer is no longer treated because it has grown worse. Palliative care does not combat cancer directly. Instead, palliative care is utilized to either avoid or reduce symptoms and side effects. Used as an element of hospice care, palliative care examines how the experience of cancer is impacting a person and helps reduce pain and stress. Palliative care lets patients as well as their loved ones participate in the care process. Palliative care focuses on making sure that all care needs are met. The medical professionals who are involved in a palliative team can help look for and address various emotional, social, or other types of issues that arise. The focus of palliative care in hospice services is to help make sure that patients remain comfortable while enjoying the final stages of life. As a result, things like discomfort and pain are addressed to make sure that a person feels as good as they possibly can.
- Home and inpatient hospice care. Most kinds of hospice care revolve around the home, but there can be times when a person might need to be in a medical facility. The patient’s medical team can schedule inpatient care and will remain involved in the treatment process with you and your loved ones. A patient can then return to in-patient care as soon as he or she is ready.
- Spiritual assistance. Due to the various religious and spiritual beliefs that people hold, spiritual assistance can be utilized to meet specific needs. This might include helping you examine what your death means, helping you say farewell to loved ones, or assisting with a religious ceremony.
- Family meetings. Routinely scheduled meetings that are often led by a hospice nurse or social worker help to make sure that family members remain up to date about your condition and what you should expect. These meetings make sure that everyone has the opportunity to exchange their feelings, discuss what is happening, and discover more about the death process. Family members received substantial support from these appointments. Routine updates might be given informally through talks with medical staff during visits.
- Care coordination. Medical staff at hospices both coordinate and supervise around-the-clock care. These medical teams bear the responsibility of making sure that all services that are involved exchange adequate details. This information might include inpatient staff and other professionals including funeral directors and pharmacists. You and your medical team are encouraged to speak with your hospice team if you encounter any issues. Hospice workers make sure that you and your loved ones are never alone at any point.
- Respite services. For people who are receiving at-home care, some hospices provide respite care which lets loved ones spend time away from the tasks of caregiving. Respite care is provided in five-day periods. During this time, the patient either receives care at a hospice facility or in beds set aside in nursing homes or hospitals. While respite care takes over, families can take much-needed vacation time.
- Bereavement services. Bereavement refers to the time of mourning that happens after a loss. Hospice teams work with family members and loved ones to guide them through the process of grieving. Trained volunteers as well as counselors and clergy can offer support to surviving loved ones. Hospice workers can refer family members and loved ones to medical professionals if necessary. Bereavement services are provided for as long as a year after a person’s death.
How Palliative Care Differs from Hospice Care
Many people are confused about the differences between hospice and palliative care. Consider the following notable differences between these two areas of care:
- When care is provided. Hospice care is available for patients in the final phases of their lives, while palliative care is available at any point during a serious illness.
- What other kinds of care are offered? Care at hospices is given when no kind of active treatment is being given for an advanced illness. Treatment at hospice care involves addressing symptoms and side effects. Palliative care is offered when a person is actively undergoing treatment.
- How care teams function. Hospice care workers coordinate most of the care received by a patient, while palliative care teams are separate from medical care teams that give and manage treatment for a patient’s illness.
Who Qualifies for Hospice Care
Not everyone with mesothelioma automatically qualifies for hospice care. Some groups of people who qualify for hospice care include:
- People over the age of eighteen with a terminal condition are expected to live no longer than six months. Mesothelioma as well as other associated cancers can result in a diagnosis like this.
- Children as well as adolescents. The regulations for children are distinct from those for adults. Mesothelioma in children is extremely rare, though.
How People Are Enrolled in Hospices
Many people benefit from hospice care but do not know how to access the services provided by hospices. Some individuals do not want to discuss the subject, while others wait for their doctor to suggest the service and another group of people simply do not know they can initiate hospice services on their own provided their loved one meets the qualifying criteria. It’s helpful to let healthcare providers understand that receiving care at a hospice is preferred.