Hospice Care Remains a Misunderstood and Underutilized Benefit, According to In-House Hospice

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 General News
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SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Jan. 26 As unemployment continues torise in the United States, Americans are battling to hold onto their healthcoverage. Many are worried about what would happen if they were struck with aserious medical condition - who would care for them? How would they pay forthe care? But the widely known benefit of hospice care is often underutilizeddue to various misconceptions. This benefit is available to all eligibleAmericans - whether they are employed or not.

Although hospice care has slowly increased over the years with more than1.2 million Americans enrolled, many Americans are still uninformed of itsfull services. Because hospice is often misunderstood by patients, familymembers and some health care providers, many patients who can benefit fromhospice care are never enrolled. Of those patients who are enrolled, care isoften given far too late. In fact, over 30 percent enter hospice within oneweek of death - much too short a time for the patient to benefit from the fullrange of services provided by hospice.

"We have to spread the message to more physicians, hospitals, patients andtheir family members to utilize hospice programs more appropriately," statedLaura A. Wagner, President and CEO of In-House Hospice. "Hospice services arecovered through Medicare and most Medicaid programs. Even certain privateinsurances programs allow for hospice benefits. There is rarely out-of-pocketexpense to the patient."

Wagner explains that Medicare patients are entitled to receive hospicecare up to 180 days. Occasionally, with the improved quality of life, manypatients live beyond the six month prognosis at which point their case can bereviewed and possibly approved for another 180 days of hospice programs.

"People pay into unemployment benefits in case they lose their job,"explained Wagner. "What people don't realize is that they have also beenpaying for a hospice benefit. And now, with people out of work, losing theirlife savings, their homes, they should be using their hospice benefit to helpthemselves or their loved ones during this most important time. The hospicebenefit helps the patient, the family and caregivers."

Those who are aware of hospice care often associate it strictly withcancer patients. But illnesses that qualify for hospice benefits also include:Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(COPD), End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), Parkinson's, adult failure to thriveand HIV.

Hospice services are not intended to speed up or prolong the dyingprocess, but focuses instead on relief of pain and other symptoms whileincreasing quality of life. Hospice provides a holistic approach to care andoften involves a team of nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, homehealth aides and physicians with expertise in pain and symptom management. Theteam can also provide support to family members, significant others andchildren; for example, bereavement support is available for 13 monthsfollowing the death of a loved one.

A trained healthcare professional is usually scheduled to visit on a dailyor weekly basis as needed and is always on call 24 hours a day, seven days aweek. The services often provided by a hospice program will include:

While it can be hard for a physician to determine an individual's lifeexpectancy, it is part of the application process. Eligibility for hospice isbased on two conditions -- that a terminal illness exists and that a physicianhas indicated the life expectancy as six months or less.

About In-House

In-House Hospice is one of the leading hospice providers in Michigan andOhio serving nearly 450 patients every day. In-House Hospice's mission is toprovide the highest level of quality care to its patients and was selected byThe Detroit Free Press as one of the Top Work Places of 2008 for itsmanagement team and its commitment to providing one of the best workingenvironments in the state. Headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, it hasexperienced double-digit growth over the last 10 years and serves patients andtheir families in more than 40 counties in Michigan and Ohio.-- Personal care for the patient, in a manner that respects the individual's dignity. The hospice provider may teach family or caregivers how to provide proper care -- Palliative care, including pain management through medications -- Administering other medications, as prescribed by the physician -- Spiritual support from the chaplain and spiritual volunteers -- Companionship, such as reading a book aloud, playing cards, talking together or simply sitting with the person -- Emotional support for the patient and family members -- Visits from volunteers, to provide companionship for the patient and to offer respite for the caregivers

SOURCE In-House Hospice

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