November 28, 2016

5 Biggest Questions About Hospice and Palliative Care

The word hospice can often draw out feelings of anxiousness, and the term palliative care can bring on confusion. At LightBridge, we encounter patients and families with a million questions about what lies ahead of them when they enter the hospice and palliative care journey. We know it can be a very uncertain time, and feel it’s our honor and responsibility to alleviate worry along the way.

Many questions are specific to the patient’s needs and circumstances, but sometimes they’re more general. These are a few of the questions most patients and families have when they enter this stage of care in their lives: 

1. What is hospice?

At LightBridge, hospice care is really about living life to the fullest. We offer a comprehensive approach to pain and symptom management while also providing spiritual, emotional, and psychological support to the patient, their loved ones, and caregivers.

Contrary to popular belief, hospice is not a place it is a program. We do nothing to hasten death, and in fact, studies have shown that people in hospice care live longer than those who are not. Our job is to make each day as meaningful and as comfortable as we can for our patients and their families. 

2. What’s the difference between hospice and palliative care?

The government defines hospice as a program designed to provide care during the last six months of life if a disease takes its normal course. Of course, some patients are under hospice care for much longer or shorter than six months, so our efforts focus on supporting individuals who are no longer looking for curative treatment but instead are seeking comfort and support during the last period of their life.

It is often said, palliative care is always a part of hospice, but hospice is not always a part of palliative care. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness.  Palliative care is focused on providing patients with relief from symptoms, pain, and stress from the serious illness – whatever the diagnosis.  The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and family.  Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided together with curative treatment.

In palliative care—both alone and within the hospice benefit—we don’t replace the patient’s physician. We work alongside the physician and clinical team to provide an extra layer of support to the patient and their family. 

3. What’s covered if I enroll in hospice?

The hospice benefit is very inclusive, providing care for the mind, body, and spirit of the patient. Hospice care which is paid for by Medicare, MediCal and by most insurance programs cover an integrated care team, as well as all medications, equipment, and supplies related to the end of life. The care team is made up of the hospice Medical Director, nurses, social workers, spiritual care counselors, home health aides, and volunteers who meet every week to decide how to best support and care for patients. LightBridge’s hospice program provides complete care that goes far beyond a typical medical model of care in that it includes both the patient and their loved ones.

4. What kind of support from hospice will we receive?

LightBridge provides 24-hour support for patients and families by their team of providers. In addition, medications, equipment and supplies related to the terminal illness are provided by hospice.

5. What happens once my loved one has passed?

Hospice is one of the most unique programs in health care, because it not only lets us care for the patient but it also allows us to extend that support to their family and loved ones. Our social workers, volunteers, and chaplains help ease caregiver stress during the patient’s end-of-life journey and provide bereavement support for an entire year after the loss of a loved one. We know it’s a very difficult time, and our team at LightBridge takes this important role very seriously. 

If you have any additional questions about hospice or palliative care, please take a look at our FAQ page. You can also contact us directly online or by calling (858) 458-2992.

By: Jill Mendlen, Founder/CEO