Health Watch/Aspirus Keweenaw/Cindy Griffin/Patient Services Director

As a certified Hospice and Palliative Care nurse, I am often asked, “What does Hospice care mean?” In healthcare we know this term, but I realize “Hospice care” is not used very often in day-to day conversations and many people do not think about it- until they or a loved one have a serious illness or health condition.

Hospice Care: How we define it

Hospice Care is for a person with an illness that their physician believes “if the disease takes its normal course of progression, the person would be expected to have less than six months to live.”

Our goal is to promote quality of life when a “cure” for a disease is not an option. Hospice care concentrates on relieving symptoms and supporting patients and their families.

The Hospice team can help by instructing patients and their families about comfort care and symptom management. Symptom management means providing cares that give more attention to symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, depression, lack of appetite, nausea, delirium (acute confusion), anxiety, seizures, sleep problems, skin or wound problems and other symptoms. Our trained staff and volunteers are experienced in dealing with the special physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs at the end of life. We work with the patient and their physician to manage pain as comfort is Hospice care’s number one priority.

Here are some good recommendations for when Hospice care should be started:

If you have difficulty with pain control or other symptoms(described above)

If you have been in and out of the hospital frequently and are not functioning well

If you have been told you (or a loved one) are in the end stages of advanced cancer, dementia or another disease.

Hospice Care services include:

The Hospice team- works closely with your physician to give complete care

Medications for pain and comfort-are provided at no cost

All equipment and supplies for safety and comfort- are provided at no cost

Nurses, social workers, home care aides, therapists and volunteers are available to make regular scheduled home visits

Spiritual/chaplain services and a bereavement program are also provided

Hospice Medical Director- oversees all aspects of Hospice services

Hospice care is a covered benefit under Medicare, Medicaid and many other insurance policies. Hospice is a covered benefit in your own home, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities.

For more information or if you have questions, talk to your health care provider or call Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice at 906-337-5700.

Editor’s note: Cindy Griffin is a Patient Services Director at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice