When Medicare developed its hospice benefit in the early 1980s, the initial vision was to provide basic nursing care in the home for someone approaching the end of life. Now, nearly thirty years later, hospice care encompasses a great deal more, designed to be focused on meeting more than just the needs that may arise from a patient’s physical ailment. At the heart of hospice is the Interdisciplinary Team, comprised of a nurse, social worker, aide, chaplain, volunteer and physician—whose collective gifts come together to offer dignified and compassionate end-of-life care for a person’s body, mind, spirit and family when there is no longer a cure. Rarely are we in a patient’s home at the same time, but we meet regularly to review each and every person’s plan of care, striving to bring our various perspectives to the table so that all needs are met.
With this Interdisciplinary Team as the core of hospice care, we then augment that with other elements designed to meet the patient’s goals for care. Included in the hospice benefit is a provision for durable medical equipment, so we provide (at no additional cost) those devices needed to keep the patient comfortable—equipment such as a hospital bed, walker, oxygen supply, and so forth. The Hospice benefit also covers those drugs related to the hospice diagnosis, and we work with the patient’s attending physician to ensure that other, non-hospice-related drugs, are continued when necessary or desired. We also have several ancillary providers available for those special circumstances that call for their expertise—dietician, physical therapist, pharmacist, and physician specialists are on hand to provide their services when needed—all in the effort of keeping the patient comfortable.
Hospice also acknowledges that one’s death does not occur in a vacuum—family and friends are affected as well. To that end, we provide comprehensive bereavement care which begins before the death of a loved one, and continues well beyond it. Our bereavement program provides a range of services designed to support and care for family and friends so that we honor the memory of those who have died while finding ways to carry on.