by Terry Rogers
When a loved one is at the end of life, Delaware Hospice offers services that are not only designed to aid the person who is dying but also the family that will be left behind when they are gone. There is no question that hospice offers many services that are extremely beneficial, yet some myths about their programs and what they do still linger.
“Hospice care isn’t something you encounter every day,” Jennifer Saienni, MBA, Marketing Communications Coordinator at Delaware Hospice, said. “Because it is so unfamiliar, myths and untruths continue to swirl around. When we hear some of these myths, we like to provide the truth so that people can be more comfortable with what we do.”
Many people believe that Delaware Hospice only provides assistance when someone is very close to death and there is no longer hope they will survive. The fact is that hospice provides specialized medical care that maximizes the quality of life and makes the wishes of the seriously ill person as well as their family a priority. It is true that the program is designed for those whose prognosis is six months or less of life but many families say they wish they had called in Delaware Hospice much sooner.
Although there is a Delaware Hospice Center in Milford, hospice itself is not actually a place. Hospice care can be offered in the patient’s home, a family member’s home, a nursing facility, group residence or in a hospital.
Initially, hospice care was designed for those who were suffering from cancer as it is not unusual for someone with that disease to slowly move toward end of life. However, over the years, hospice care has evolved significantly and can now be used by anyone who has a terminal illness.
Delaware Hospice provides pain and symptom management as well as spiritual, emotional and social support. They do not stop all of your medications when you enter the program. Often, people consider hospice care as the treatments have lost effectiveness or the burden of treatment is no longer beneficial due to the patient’s prognosis. Hospice may also better help the patient reach their personal goals as they move toward the end of life.
Many believe that you must stop seeing your primary care provider while on hospice care but this is far from true. In fact, hospice works in close partnership with your primary care provider as well as providing you and your family with an interdisciplinary hospice team.
It is not true that morphine administered for comfort can hasten death. Morphine is used to relieve pain when other medications no longer provide relief. As a disease progresses, higher doses of morphine may be used to eliminate pain or to minimize respiratory distress. Although this type of medication can lead to a more comfortable death, it does not bring it on more quickly.
“We often hear patients say that if they go to our center, they are going to die,” Saienni said. “We often transport patients to the center for additional treatment when symptoms are better managed with a short-term stay and then return them to their home after those symptoms improve. An in-patient stay can also give caregivers a break while their loved one is improving at an in-patient location.”
Although Delaware Hospice does reach out to your family doctor to receive medical records and establish a partnership regarding care, anyone can call to learn more about hospice care. Our staff will meet with you and provide you with all the information you need before reaching out to the family doctor.
As long as you meet your insurer’s criteria for hospice care, you are covered for services. Medicare Part A, Medicaid and most private insurance companies cover hospice care. In addition, Delaware Hospice never turns away a patient based on their ability or inability to pay.
“The final myth is one we really want to dispel,” Saienni said. “Some believe that hospice is only for the person who is dying. This cannot be farther from the truth. Hospice provides a support system for the patient’s entire circle of family and friends. We work with you and your family to coordinate resources, such as prescriptions, equipment and supplies so that you can focus on the time you have remaining rather than stressful details. We also provide the family with knowledge and emotional support, helping them with their caregiving roles.” Delaware Hospice can provide volunteer help, respite care and a 24 hour per day, 7-day per week phone line.
Saienni explained that Delaware Hospice even offers workshops and assistance with Advance Care Planning, helping people make those difficult decisions. Support is also provided to family and friends, including children, who are affected by the loss of a loved one through bereavement counseling. If you want to learn more about hospice care or would like to volunteer, call 800-838-9800 or visit delawarehospice.org.