What if a Patient Begins to Improve in Hospice?

Posted on Aug 07, 2020

hospice patient improvement

Many equate “hospice” with a form of care for a person with a terminal prognosis—typically with the last 6-month window of their life. For this reason, this care may be recommended when other forms of care have been deemed ineffective at lengthening the patient’s life in a meaningful way. Hospice care is meant to provide the individual with comfort and dignity before they eventually pass away. With this being said, the path to patient discharge is not always as “simple” as that. 

Patients Can Seem to “Improve”

Though rare, there are instances of hospice patients seeming to do much “better” in hospice care than traditional hospitalization or while receiving other forms of care. They may become more alert, more social, and happier. This does not necessarily denote a recovery but can occur due to a variety of reasons. At times, as one’s plan of care shifts as they move from traditional care to hospice care, this can mean changes in their medications, diet, social interaction, and the like. In most instances, even these positive changes are not indications of the possibility of recovery but are more likely due to various positive aspects of hospice care—especially in comparison to receiving taxing treatments leading up to a referral. 

Does Anyone Ever Recover After Entering Hospice?

The decision to refer a patient to hospice care is not one entered into lightly. For this reason, most patients who elect for this care do not recover from their terminal diagnosis. It is important to note, however, that patients or family members can choose to revoke hospice care at any time if a physician has determined the possibility of a treatment that can lengthen the patient’s life longer than the previous length of time. While this can happen, this is highly unusual and should not be expected. In most instances, holding onto such false hopes following a hospice referral can be emotionally taxing for patients and family members alike. 

More Questions About Hospice Care?

If you or a loved one have additional questions about hospice care, feel free to reach out to the experts at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care in Tulsa, OK.

Who Pays for Hospice Care?

Posted on Aug 07, 2020

who pays for hospice

Whenever the subject of hospice comes up for families, it may seem uncomfortable to ask the question that may also be on one’s mind— 

“Well, who is going to pay for this?” 

How Hospice is Covered in the United States

As your family begins researching what is covered in end-of-life care for a loved one, the cost of care does not need to be a further worry. For this reason, it will likely be reassuring to discover that, in the United States, most hospice care is completely covered by Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Administration plans, or most major insurance plans. 

How Can Insurance Afford This Expense? 

It may seem peculiar that most forms of insurance cover hospice care. The reason for this is because, in comparison to the cost of repeated lengthy hospitalizations, hospice is relatively inexpensive to administer. This lower cost makes covering such care easier for most insurance companies.

How Much of Hospice is Typically Covered?

Due to the lowered cost of administration in comparison to many forms of healthcare, most insurance plans, Medicare, or Medicaid will cover most all end-of-life care. These items include the cost of medication and other related expenses. 

What About Uninsured Hospice Patients? 

There are occasions when, for one reason or another, a patient cannot afford major insurance coverage and does not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. When this is the case, a financial advisor working on behalf of a hospice organization or a non-profit organization can assist patients and their families in securing funding.

Additional Questions? 

No two scenarios are identical, and prices may vary depending on a variety of situations. For this reason, if your family has any questions about paying for hospice care, you’re encouraged to reach out to hospice care professionals in your area. 

Quality Hospice & Palliative Care in Tulsa, OK

For quality hospice care in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, you’re invited to learn about Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.

Why Won’t They Give Me a Specific Timeline?

Posted on Jun 09, 2020

conversation with hospice nurse

Surprises can be fun. A surprise birthday party can be an unexpected joy. A surprise in the plot of a movie can add a suspenseful twist. When it comes to the health or longevity of a loved one, however, surprises can be unbearable. For this reason, many family members of hospice patients have been known to ask hospice nurses or doctors, “How much time do they have left?” While a specific month, week, day, or hour amount is helpful for families so they can emotionally prepare, in many instances, hospice care professionals won’t deliver a specific answer. 

The Variables

As much as families would like one, there is no hourglass whose sands count down the moments of life their loved one has left. Doctors and nurses can make estimations based on their own experiences with past patients who displayed similar symptoms or experienced the same conditions. Still, these are simply educated guesses based on one’s own experience, not a bedside hourglass. There are myriad reasons why some people live longer and some pass away sooner than others. 

The Danger in Overestimating

Another reason why hospice nurses and doctors may be hesitant about providing answers based on their experiences is the severe danger in overestimating the patients’ longevity. It’s understood that those administered to hospice care could pass at any time. Some may continue living long past the doctors’ furthest estimations. Others could pass away in their sleep soon after arriving. When a hospice nurse or doctor provides an estimate that spans a fair amount of time out and the patient dies much earlier than this expected time, the surprise can be devastating for family members and loved ones. For this reason, many hospice professionals will resist the temptation to deliver an overly specific estimation regarding a patient’s lifespan. 

The Safe Answer

Despite this apprehension over delivering an incredibly specific lifespan estimation, hospice professionals will still give patient families and loved ones reasonably safe-but-accurate input into their conditions when asked. An experienced hospice nurse or doctor may be able to tell loved ones whether a patient has hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, or months to years left. This may be all the information they can reliably give, but is still specific enough to help loved ones emotionally prepare for the loss of this individual. Of course, these standards will vary depending on the hospice professional, the patient, and their ongoing rate of decline. 

They’re Not Lying to You

With whatever answer you receive from your hospice care professional, it is essential to know that no one is lying to you. There is no incentive for anyone to be deceptive about the lifespan of a patient. What may feel like secrecy is likely uncertainty—none of which is anyone’s fault, but simply the complicated nature of patient decline. It is vital to trust your loved one’s hospice care professionals and believe they are doing everything in their power to provide comfort, clarity, and honesty throughout the process.

What Makes Hospice Nurses Different

Posted on Jun 09, 2020

hospice nurse

No matter their specialty, nurses are some of the most wonderful people to walk the earth. The combination of proficiency, professionalism, focus, and heart that goes into being a nurse is what makes the role such a highly regarded position by patients, families, and other medical support staff. There is one kind of nurse, however, that is arguably different than any other variety of nurse—the hospice nurse. While we’re not attempting to say that hospice nurses are better than other types of nurses, the role does require a very unique kind of person. In this piece, we’re going to look at some of the reasons why hospice nurses are such a special subset of professionals within the nursing profession. 

Hospice Nurses Have an Adaptive Pace

To say that hospice care centers differ from other healthcare establishments is an understatement. Where the goals of most hospitals and clinics are to help restore the patient back to health as quickly as possible, hospice aims to provide the maximum amount of comfort as to patients and assist them through the dying process. Because of this, the daily pace of a hospice nurse differs significantly from other healthcare professionals. A hospice nurse’s pace must mirror the pace of the patient. Determining this pace is a unique skill that experienced hospice nurses develop over time. 

Communication With Patient Families

While nurses across the medical field must be master communicators, hospice nurses have the immense task of communicating the particulars of a hospice patient’s status with family members. Family members of hospice patients are justifiably emotional and in need of answers. Choosing the right words to deliver certain pieces of information accurately, yet not harsh, is a skill less taught and more developed with years in hospice care. To make matters more difficult, hospice nurses are frequently asked point-blank questions about a patients’ life expectancy and other variables. In many of these instances, there are no precise answers to deliver, but the proper feedback must be given regardless. 

Hospice Nurses Are Champion Listeners

In addition to caring for the physical needs of hospice patients, hospice nurses have a unique superpower—listening. There may be times when hospice nurses have no answers for patients or family members alike. What they will have to give is a caring ear. The slower pace of hospice care allows nurses the unique opportunity to lend an ear and help shoulder emotions from patients and loved ones alike. 

Hospices Have to be Tough

Being a hospice nurse isn’t easy. One would think that they would have to remain in a bubble to keep from growing emotionally attached to a patient in the dying process. While this would be a safer way to work, they don’t—they allow themselves to be vulnerable and fully embrace their patients as people deserving of such respect. While this is understandably painful for them, they understand that being vulnerable is the only way to deliver the level of care necessary for their patients. Though they may shed a tear along with loved ones, they can return to work to the next day knowing that they gave their all in helping their patient navigate the dying process. Many attempt to be hospice nurses, but can’t handle the constant loss that comes with the job. While this is unfortunate, it means that those who remain are truly giving their all. 

How COVID-19 Has Changed Hospice Care

Posted on Jun 02, 2020

The world, as most of us know it, has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospice and palliative care professionals are also taking the steps necessary to ensure the safety of patients and care staff alike. The following is a relatively broad overview of some of the changes that have occurred across the hospice and palliative care industries. Some of these changes may differ based on different organizational protocols, local ordinances, and the rate of infection over time.

Minimizing Patient Exposure

Many new policies have been put in place in an attempt to limit patient exposure to possible carriers of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Some of these new rules include limiting specialist traffic through patient homes and care facilities. While doctors, registered nurses, and other specialists deemed officially “necessary” to patient care are allowed careful access, many others are now barred from physically accessing these facilities or patient homes. Most social workers, certain therapists, chaplains, and visitors must now communicate with patients and their families via video conferencing or some other form of telecommunication. 

To further minimize possible virus spread within facilities, most specialists are screened for infection before beginning work. This screening process includes a comprehensive questionnaire about their past whereabouts, behaviors, and with whom they have come in contact. Their temperatures are also taken to detect possible fever. 

Face Masks

Due to the ease of transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus from respiratory droplets, most caretakers are required to wear masks that cover their nose and mouths while working with patients. Most of these masks are likely surgical facemasks, though some may wear cloth facemasks where surgical facemasks are in shorter supply. 

Those Working With Infected Patients

For patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19, entirely different protocols apply. Staff members caring for such patients (where they exist) are required to don the appropriate personal protective equipment—including custom-fitted N95 facemasks.

Video Conferencing

Though communication with patients is important, most interactions with patients and their families, chaplains, therapists, or social workers will continue to take place via video conferencing to limit the patient’s exposure risk.

Like you, we can’t wait for this pandemic to be behind us and for regular visitation to resume. However, for the sake of patient and staff health, we must remain vigilant. We’re all in this together. 

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