My doctor mentioned Hospice. What do I do?
Begin asking questions. The decision to explore hospice is one of the most important considerations when evaluating care options for a life-limiting illness. For many people the thought of hospice is frightening. It takes courage to explore and ask questions about hospice. Because many families say, “We wish we had called hospice sooner,” it is our hope that the following questions and answers will help make your exploration of hospice care easier.
What is Hospice?
Hospice is not a place but a philosophy of care. Most of the time Hospice is introduced in the last six months of life to provide care for terminally ill patients.
The main focus of hospice is on improving quality and comfort of remaining life. Most of our patients are cared for in the comfort of their homes or in the home-like setting of choice such as a nursing home, personal care home or assisted living residence. If a symptom is difficult to manage in the home, a patient may be admitted to a hospital for short-term symptom management; however, it is the goal of hospice to help patients remain at home, in their familiar surroundings, when possible.
Palliative care can be used in conjunction with life-prolonging measures. Often it is given to those with terminal and non-terminal illness. Palliative can begin at any stage of the disease.
No. Hospice serves patients living with a number of different illnesses including, but not limited to, cancer, Alzheimer’s/dementia, renal disease, liver disease, AIDS, heart disease, COPD, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Hospice care is available for patients who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, regardless of the type of illness. There is also no age requirement. Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center cares for individuals of all ages, from newborns to senior adults.
Finding a Hospice
Not all hospices are the same, so it’s important to know your options. Your physician may have information on various hospice agencies in your community. An internet search may also be helpful. Hospice of NGMC will gladly visit your home for a FREE consultation to help you determine if we are right for you.
Yes. Patients and caregivers have the right to choose their own hospice. If you have a preferred hospice, be assertive in asking your physician to refer to your preferred program. It is also fine to tell your physician that you would like to interview more than one program before choosing.
A physician’s order is necessary to initiate care but not necessary for a consultation. Patients and caregivers may independently contact and interview hospices on their own.
Sometimes it is hard to know where to start when looking for hospice. We recommend getting answers to the following questions:
- Does your hospice make visit in the county where I live?
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- Has someone you know had a great experience with a particular hospice?
- How many times per week will the nurse visit me in my home?
- What happens if there is an emergency at night or on the weekend?
We’re available after hours
- What is the average response time of after-hours staff?
- Does the hospice provide special services, like massage therapy or music?
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- Does the hospice provide continuous care?
- Where does the hospice provide their GIP and Respite services?
- What services does the bereavement program provide?
- How will the hospice involve the patient, family and caregiver in the Plan of Care?
- How does the hospice manage pain and symptoms?
In addition to a Medicare certification, Hospice of NGMC was the recipient of the annual Hospice Elite award for both 2017 and 2018! We received this special recognition by scoring above the national and local average on all quality measures. This prestigious annual review recognizes hospices that continually provide the highest level of quality care as measured from the caregiver’s point of view.
Simply call 770-219-8888 and speak with our Access Center Nurse. She will walk you through what is needed to begin care. We would be honored to be chosen to walk through this journey with you or your family member.
Working with Hospice
Not necessarily. Hospice supports a patient’s desire to live as independently as possible for as long as possible and many hospice patients do not initially require additional caregivers. However, the help of family, friends an/or outside caregivers becomes invaluable as your physical condition declines. Hospice staff will work with you to monitor your safety and will help you plan ahead for the time when additional care giving becomes necessary.
Your primary physician is a key part of your hospice experience. You may choose any primary physician to oversee your hospice care — we encourage you to use the physician that is most familiar with your care. You may continue to make office visits to your physician if you choose. Our staff, however, will communicate with your physician on a regular basis – providing status updates and receiving direction from him/her for any changes in your care.
Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice services at 100%. Most private insurance companies have a hospice benefit. For patients without insurance, Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center social workers can assist with an application for financial assistance. We are committed to providing care regardless of ability to pay.
We have designated nurse staffing after hours, weekends & holidays, as well as on call social work services. We are committed to timely response and exceptional patient service around the clock.
You do. Hospice care is often described as patient-driven and physician-directed. Hospice helps you and your family determine and accomplish your goals which may include pain management, recording a life history or attending a special event, such as your child’s graduation. Patients and their families are at the center of the hospice plan of care and are the most important members of the care team.
Yes. It is your right to choose your advance directives, which are your options for care at the end of life. Hospice of NGMC does not require patients to sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). Our staff is always available to discuss care options and to support you in your decision making process.
To learn more about Advance Care Directives, or to create your own, visit our Advance Care Planning page.