By Tana Villanueva, General Manager for VITAS® Healthcare
When a patient with an advanced illness is ready to start the conversation about hospice, some concerns inevitably arise. After all, most patients don’t get a trial run of the hospice experience, so it’s normal to have plenty of questions: Where will I receive care, and from whom? Can I stay on my current medications? What if I require home medical equipment?
VITAS® Healthcare has over 40 years of experience providing hospice care to patients wherever they need it. VITAS has helped millions of patients find peace of mind and better quality of life near the end of life by creating individualized care plans tailored to their needs. Hospice focuses on managing symptoms and making patients comfortable, and we’ve found that most patients fare best where they’re already most at ease: in their home.
Choosing Home Over Hospital
For those unfamiliar with end-of-life care, it might be surprising to learn that most hospice happens at home. With studies showing that more than 70 percent of people would prefer to die at home, it’s easy to see why.
Aside from enjoying the simple comfort of familiar faces and surroundings, many hospice patients already will have spent days or weeks in the hospital by the time they’re referred to hospice. The hospital is often the last place a dying patient wants to be—and hospitals are under increasing pressure to reduce both patient readmissions for the same symptoms and in-hospital deaths.
Choosing to receive hospice care at home doesn’t mean “giving up” or compromising on quality of care. As part of the Medicare Part A hospice benefit, which provides 100 percent hospice coverage, VITAS patients are entitled to whatever their terminal diagnosis requires. This includes medications, home medical equipment, supplies, supportive services, and clinical care from a team of experts.
Expert Care for the Patient—and Their Family
After a patient has been referred to VITAS and evaluated for hospice eligibility, an interdisciplinary hospice team steps in—nurse, hospice aide, social worker, physician, chaplain, bereavement specialist, and volunteers. The team members provide clinical, spiritual, and psychosocial care to the patient and their family wherever they call home, whether that’s a private residence, nursing home, assisted living facility, or inpatient unit.
The team will teach the designated family caregiver(s) how to manage symptoms and handle other routine tasks. Individual members of the team will coordinate and schedule regular visits. Some will visit daily, while others will visit weekly, when requested or as needed. Ultimately, the patient and family are the core of the team, and their input—along with that of the patient’s physician and caregiver(s)—is factored into a care plan that’s evaluated and revised as necessary on a weekly basis.
Our team supports the patient’s family during the most difficult moments of their loved one’s last days of life, and it’s not uncommon for many nurses, volunteers, and aides to form a friendly relationship with their patients’ families, ties that extend long after a death. After a patient dies, VITAS continues to provide bereavement support to the family for a minimum of 13 months.
If you (or a loved one) are living with advanced illness, it’s worth considering how those final months, weeks, and days are best spent: At home among loved ones, unburdened of concerns over medical costs, and in the care of a team dedicated to improving patients’ comfort and dignity.
For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 309.691.2381 or visit VITAS.com.