When you or someone you love is living with a life-limiting or terminal illness, it’s easy to suffer information overload, from learning about the disease to juggling doctor appointments. When it’s time for hospice care, it can be difficult to make a decision from the myriad of choices facing you. You may find that your doctor, friends and family members are giving you several suggestions, but ultimately, you will be the one who makes decisions about your hospice care.
What Is Hospice Care?
Hospice is not a place, nor is it only for the elderly. Hospice provides hope, comfort and care for those who are living with a life-limiting illness. Hospice care is appropriate for those with a life expectancy of six months or less. The goal of care is to manage pain and symptoms, relieve anxiety and improve the quality of life for the whole family.
While cancer patients may be the first ones you think of when you hear the word “hospice,” we actually serve patients who have a wide range of diagnoses. In addition to cancer, a few of these diagnoses are:
- End-stages of chronic illnesses such as lung, heart, and kidney disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Neurological diseases
One of the common myths surrounding hospice care is that all hospices offer similar levels of care. This isn’t true. There are several differences.
All Hospices are Not the Same
Most hospices are Medicare certified, but how they provide end-of-life care can vary. In addition, there are also differences in the services, programs and levels of support provided. Therefore, we’ve outlined seven qualities you should look for in a hospice care program.
1. Full-time Physicians on Staff
While hospices work closely with doctors, not all of them have full-time physicians on staff. In fact, Lower Cape Fear LifeCare is the only hospice in the area that does.
2. Specialized Certification
Be sure to ask if the clinical staff members—including nurses and nursing aides—have specialized training and certification in hospice care. This designation represents a commitment to a higher level of care for you and your family.
3. Multiple Facets of Support
In addition to your physical needs, does the hospice have the resources to care for your spiritual needs as well? What about your loved ones? Lower Cape Fear LifeCare not only offers spiritual and psychological support, but we also provide extensive opportunities for grief care
for both adults and children. Families of hospice patients can receive grief counseling for up to 13 months after the loss of their loved one.
4. Differing Levels of Care
Hospice care may not always be the appropriate solution. If you’re experiencing a serious illness but do not yet qualify for hospice care, we offer palliative care to help manage symptoms and pain. Palliative care can begin at any age or at any stage of the illness. Palliative care offers people specialized medical care that manages pain and symptoms while treatment for their illness is ongoing. It also helps coordinate care between doctors and provides education and information to patients and their loved ones.
5. Stellar Satisfaction Scores
Our patient satisfaction scores
rank well above the national average. These scores are based on feedback from family members. You can view the specifics of our scores and compare them to other area hospice providers at Medicare Care Compare
6. Ability to serve in various locations
A hospice should be able to serve you at your location, whether that’s a skilled nursing facility, your home or a hospital. In addition to offering this service, Lower Cape Fear LifeCare also has inpatient hospice care centers
throughout the area if symptoms cannot be effectively managed at home. In fact, more than 90 percent of our hospice patients are served where they live.
7. Assistance that is readily available
A quality hospice should be able to quickly respond to any critical situations. At Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, we are available 24/7 to address any critical situation that may arise. Whether you call us at 2 p.m. to 2 am., our on-call nurse is ready to help you, even on holidays.
Hospice care is about living—not dying
One more picnic by the lake. One more walk on the beach with your family. One more afternoon playing with the grandchildren. Hospice care is all about these “one more” opportunities to continue to live life to the fullest extent possible. Did you know that patients who chose hospice care lived an average of one month longer than similar patients who did not choose hospice care?
That means one more month spending time with those you love and—as much as possible—doing the things you love. Contact Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, at 800-733-1476, for additional information or to find out the type of care that’s appropriate
Kelly Erola, MD, FAAHPM, FAAFP, is currently the Chief Medical Officer for Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, based in Wilmington, NC, where she has worked since 2017. Previously, she was Chief Medical Officer for Hospice Savannah, Inc. for 16 years and physician leader of the Steward Center for Palliative Care. Dr. Erola is board certified in hospice and palliative care medicine and has been involved full-time in palliative care since 2002.