Hospice care was once associated with people that were at the end stages of cancer. This is no longer the case. Today, hospice care may be an option for any person with six months or less to live, regardless of their condition or age. In fact, many hospice patients are dealing with the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. What is most important for the family and their loved one is to understand the stages of hospice care available.
It’s important to understand that hospice care is not about making your loved one well or helping them recover. Instead, it is directed towards making the last months and days of their life as comfortable as possible. It also includes providing needed support to the family of the patient during this difficult time. Treatments typically include pain management, end-of-life counseling, grief support, and giving family caregivers a break from the day-in-day-out care of their loved one.
Stages of Hospice Care
There are four stages of hospice care available to your loved one. The needs of the patient will determine the level of care. Also, a patient may go back and forth between the levels of care as is needed.
- The first stage provides routine home care. The type of hospice home health care can include visits by social workers and chaplains as well as other types of counselors. Their goal is to provide emotional support. At this level, you can also expect visits by registered nurses as well as having medical equipment come into your home.
- At stage two of hospice home health care, a determination will need to be made by the patient’s physician as to whether or not the patient can remain in the home for continued care or whether they will need to be moved into inpatient care at a hospice facility to improve their level of comfort. Once this has been accomplished, the patient can be returned home for continued care.
- The third stage of hospice home health care is respite care. Sometimes, as a caretaker, you need a break from providing your loved one with around the clock care. With respite care, your loved one is placed in a facility for a limited period of time — often as short as 24 hours — so you can rest and recharge your batteries. At that point, your family member is returned home.
- The fourth and final stage of hospice care is continuous home care. This care is typically an option when the patient is in crisis and needs a higher degree of nursing care. You can either look to an in-home caregiver or to hospice care in an assisted living setting. During this level, the patient may require around the clock nursing care.
It is important to remember that during each hospice stage, as a caregiver, you will need to care for yourself, as well as deal with your grief. It is vital to take some time for yourself to spend with friends and on activities that you enjoy. Finding a support group of people going through the same thing can be a big help, but keep in mind that grief is different for everyone. Don’t feel that you must grieve like someone else does. Everyone’s process is different.
Hospice care is important to help families who are dealing with a loved one whose life journey is coming to an end. With the help and guidance of those available to support you, the journey will be made a little easier for both you and your loved one.