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Palliative Care

Palliative care focuses on relieving the suffering of patients. Palliative care can be applied to patients in all disease stages including those with curable illnesses, those living with chronic diseases, and Hospice patients who are nearing the end of life. Hospice care is the most common form of palliative medicine.

Palliative medicine can involve physicians, nurses, chaplains, pharmacists, counselors, social workers and other health professionals to develop a treatment program with just one aim: to relieve suffering in all areas of a patient's life. This multidisciplinary approach allows the palliative care team to address physical, emotional, spiritual, and social concerns that arise with advanced illness.

Treatments and medications are said to have a palliative effect if they relieve symptoms without having a curative effect on the underlying disease or cause. For example, a cancer patient’s palliative care may include morphine to ease the pain of advanced cancer or using anti-nausea drugs to treat nausea from chemotherapy. Neither drug can cure cancer, but they relieve the suffering associated with the disease. 

Heritage Hall facilities work with a patient’s physicians to develop palliative care programs when the medical team, the patient and the family believe palliative care is necessary. The most common form of palliative care practiced in Heritage Hall facilities is hospice care, but a palliative care treatment regimen can be developed as part of any patient’s care plan when deemed necessary.

The most common form of palliative care. 

Hospice care is a team-approach to caring for a terminally ill patient and the patient's family at the end stages of life. The goal is to treat the patient's symptoms and pain, giving comfort to the patient and family. Hospice care is generally targeted for the last six months of life, and is tailored for the patient. It incorporates a team of caregivers and includes several elements of care.

Counselors and team-members assist the patient with emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual aspects of end-of-life. They can coach the family on treatments and medications, as well as counsel the family on handling the death of a loved one. Hospice care also provides practical assistance to the primary caregiver. This includes bathing, treatment, medication, and sometimes skilled care such as speech or physical therapy.

Hospice care is often provided at home, a nursing facility, or hospital. Hospice care can also include short-term inpatient stays for the patient. This can be done as respite care, providing a break for the primary caregiver, or to meet specific medical needs that can't be met at home. Inpatient stays also sometimes become necessary at the end of life when the home caregiver cannot handle lifting, bathing, or changing the patient.

How does hospice care work?

There is generally a primary caregiver, usually a family member or loved one that helps the patient requiring hospice. Oftentimes, this person has been legally designated to assist in decision-making if the patient is unable.

There is also the hospice staff, which visits often to evaluate the treatment and medications for the patient. They will also counsel the patient and family and assist in providing care. Someone on the hospice staff should be on call at all times. 

How does hospice care connect with Heritage Hall?

Heritage Hall can provide palliative care with or without the involvement of a hospice agency. However, many families choose to have a hospice agency involved while the hospice patient is at Heritage Hall. Inpatient hospice care, like the care provided at Heritage Hall, is necessary when a patient does not have 24-hour care at home from a loved one or paid caregiver. 

How is hospice care paid for?

If the patient is 65 or older and qualifies for Medicare, then hospice care can be almost completely paid for by the Medicare Hospice Benefit. Even if the patient doesn't qualify for Medicare, state Medicaid programs cover hospice care and most private insurance plans do as well. There are select hospice agencies that will provide hospice regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. These are usually non-profit or community-based agencies. If you do not have Medicare or insurance and are not eligible for Medicaid, contact the social worker at your local Heritage Hall to be directed to the nearest hospice that provides services regardless of your family’s ability to pay.

What do I need to know about a hospice care provider?

Every hospice agency is different. You will want to ask a wide range of questions about any provider to be sure they offer the services that would be appropriate for your needs. You'll want to ask about the range of services they provide including the roles of their nurses, volunteers, doctors, and counselors. You'll want to ask how often they'll be working with you, as well as how long and what hours they will be available. You will want to know what style of treatment they provide as well as what their provision is for after-hours needs. Finally, you'll want to talk about where care will be given and if inpatient or respite care would be available.

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