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We have compiled a library of information about hospice to help you better understand comfort care, make informed decisions and get the support you need as your family makes the most of every day.
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When is the right time to ask about hospice?
Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. When the goal of treatment shifts from curing the illness to providing comfort, it’s time to consider hospice. Families may feel that this time comes well before a physician tells you that your life expectancy is six months or less. By having these discussions in advance with hospice, you will have time to process the situation and make an informed decision as a family.
Is hospice available after hours?
Hospice care is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. After the administrative office has closed, a registered nurse is “on call” and can usually respond very quickly. For emergency situations, Gentle Shepherd Hospice’s chaplains and social workers may also be available after business hours.
How quickly can hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as you sign on with us, or a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by your doctor. If your doctor makes the referral, we’ll give you a call right away and set up a time to meet. Should you decide to proceed with Gentle Shepherd, hospice care can usually begin the very same day if you want.
How does the hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?
Many patients may have pain and other serious symptoms as illness progresses. Our hospice staff is highly experienced and continues to receive special training to care for all types of physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress. Gentle Shepherd’s care team has developed ways to measure how comfortable the patient is during the course of their stay in hospice. Our team works with the patient’s physician to make sure that medications are managed to achieve the goals outlined in our patient’s care plan. Every care plan is reviewed frequently to make sure any changes and new goals are reflected.
Who will be providing my care?
Every Gentle Shepherd hospice patient has access to a physician (medical director), registered nurse, certified nursing assistant, social worker and chaplain (also known as the interdisciplinary care team). For each patient and family, the team works with you to develop a care plan to make sure the patient and family receive the services they need. If needed, nursing assistants, who provide personal care to the patient, are available to visit up to two times a week.
All visits, however, are based on the patient and family needs as described in the care plan and the condition of the patient during the course of illness. The frequency of volunteers and spiritual care is often dependent upon what the family requests.
What happens if I need more care than I am able to get at home?
Gentle Shepherd has arrangements with several residential communities, long-term care facilities and hospitals if you need a different place to live during this phase of your life and require additional care. However, room and board and extra care in these settings are not covered under the Medicare or Medicaid Hospice Benefit. It is best to find out, well before hospice may be needed, if insurance or any other payer covers this type of care or if patients/families will be responsible for payment.
Can I have hospice if I live in a nursing home or a long-term care facility?
A terminally ill person can receive specialized visits from hospice care providers wherever they live, in addition to other care and services provided by the nursing home. Gentle Shepherd can serve residents of facilities with which we have written agreements to provide hospice services.
What role does the hospice volunteer serve?
Hospice volunteers are available to provide different types of support to patients and their loved ones such staying with a patient to give caregivers a break and lending emotional support and companionship to patients and family members.
Because hospice volunteers spend time in your home, Gentle Shepherd has an application and interview process to assure the person is right for this type of volunteer work. We also have an organized volunteer training program. Areas covered by our training program includes understanding hospice, confidentiality, working with families, listening skills, signs and symptoms of approaching death and grief and loss support.
What kind of illnesses qualify for hospice care?
Hospice care is available to people with any life-limiting illness including: cancer, cardiac, respiratory, liver and neurological diseases, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and AIDS. Speak with your doctor or give Gentle Shepherd a call to see if your diagnosis is appropriate for hospice.
Do state and federal reviewers inspect and evaluate hospices?
Yes. There are state licensure requirements that must be met by hospice programs in order for them to deliver care. Gentle Shepherd Hospice complies with federal regulations in order to be approved for reimbursement under Medicare. We also undergo periodic inspection to be sure that we meet the regulatory standards required to maintain our license to operate and the certification that permits Medicare reimbursement.
How can I be sure that quality hospice care is provided?
Many hospices use tools to let them see how well they are doing in relation to quality hospice standards. Medicare surveys all hospice patients’ families to get feedback on performance and satisfaction. Gentle Shepherd Hospice consistently scores above the national average in nearly all categories. We urge the families of our patients respond to Medicare’s survey request, as their input helps us deliver the very best hospice care in the Roanoke-Lynchburg region.
We also adhere to the recommended standards developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization entitled ‘Standards of Practice for Hospice Programs.’
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