When you think of hospice – a suite of relief services provided at the end of life – you may conflate it with palliative care, the easing of symptoms for a terminally ill patient.  Palliative care is just one component of hospice care; hospice helps patients and their families.  Terminally ill cancer patients benefit from hospice as do patients with cardiovascular, end stage renal, and chronic lung diseases as well as dementia.  If you or a loved one is terminally ill, you benefit from lining up hospice early so you can take advantage of the myriad of resources and services included:

Dying where you want to die:  Too many patients and their families are afraid to contact hospice when they have months to live.  As a result, many die in the hospital where they don’t want to be.  In Massachusetts, one fourth of terminally ill patients die in the hospital, one of the highest rates in the nation.  The state’s Health Policy Commission found that one quarter of patients enrolled in hospice had received the service for less than a week before dying.  When enrolled in hospice, you can elect to receive services at home, a stand-alone hospice facility, a nursing home or assisted living facility, or in dedicated beds within a traditional hospital setting.

Remaining comfortable:  Hospice helps people who are terminally ill live comfortably.  Patients receive pain medications only if needed to feel comfortable and pain free.  Patients are kept as alert as possible so they can enjoy time with their loved ones.

Lower bills:  Once enrolled in hospice, medical and social services, nursing aides, homemaker services, counseling, medications for pain and managing the disease, medical supplies, and durable equipment related to the hospice diagnosis are covered by Medicare or your GIC health plan (after your fiscal year deductible is met), if not on Medicare.

Help for you and your family:  Hospice addresses the emotional, social and spiritual needs of the entire family.  Family members and caregivers are assisted during the illness, and bereavement support is provided following the death.  Services include:

  • Medical services from physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and other specialists
  • Therapists to improve function with speech, eating, mobility, and other daily tasks
  • Home care assistance from home health aides as well as respite for caregivers
  • Help fulfilling wishes, such as attendance at a special event
  • Assistance with the myriad paperwork and documentation required at the end of life, and identification of financial assistance resources, if needed.
  • Social services, from licensed social workers, bereavement specialists, and child life specialists
  • Friendly visits from volunteers who will talk with the patient, read, or just be present for a short while
  • Spiritual care from clergy and lay ministers, from your faith community or from nondenominational providers

For additional information about hospice and palliative care, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the Hospice & Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts; and the National Directory of Hospices.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.