person in hospital gown using walking frame beside hospital bed
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Hospice is a caregiver’s best friend. A support-group leader suggested I contact hospice for my mother who has dementia. She took me back because I thought hospice was for people near death while suffering from life-ending, painful diseases such as cancer. A family friend died recently while in transport from the hospital to the hospice house. She was the type person I envisioned in a hospice facility.

Yes, hospice offers services for the terminally ill, but it’s not just for patients gasping their last breath. So, I made a call, and a few hours later, a nurse visited my mother at home and assessed her. Along with the hospice physician, they estimated she could be in the last six months of her life — a Medicare requirement for admission to the program. But no one knows for sure how long Mom will survive. Don’t let this concern keep you from calling hospice because I wish I’d called them earlier.

Hospice care is maintenance focused and does not treat a patient to cure the disease, but for comfort. In my mother’s case, a nurse visits her every week and adjusts her medication as necessary to keep Mom comfortable. For example, by visiting her in the home, the nurse determined Mom’s nighttime sleeplessness was depriving me of sleep, too. So, she tried different medications until one helped her sleep through the night.
This approach exemplifies hospice’s commitment to the whole family. Hospice and Medicare believe it’s beneficial to help the caregiver while assisting the patient because caregivers get sick more often than the average population. Their approach has been most helpful for me. They offer:
• Weekly visits by a nurse who calls the doctor as needed.
• Home-health aides bathe Mom two or three times each week.
• Provide medical supplies such as oxygen, wheelchairs, and bath stools.
• They send medication to the home.
• On-call 24/7. I can call day or night with questions.
• Volunteers offer in-home haircuts and styling.
• Chaplain visits
• Counselors who recommend social services or just offer advice.
• Respite Care

For respite care, they take a patient to a hospice house for a minimum of five days. This gives the patient’s family a much-needed rest. Medicare pays for five days of respite care every thirty days.

Not all Hospices are the same since some are for profit, and others are not-for-profit. But they follow Medicare guidelines, so their services should be similar. Most offer seven days per week availability of service, but others are five days a week provider.

I’m so thankful for Mom’s hospice team. Experts and caring people are only a phone call away with hospice.

Show me Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. Psalms 39:4 NIV