What Is a Hospice? How Does UCLAH Help Patients at Home?
UCLAH offers whole-patient hospice care. What is a hospice for? What is the hospice definition? What is hospice care at home? What does hospice do?
What Is a Hospice?
- Hospice is a form of medical intervention that cares for people in the final stage of life.
- A hospice can be anywhere: a hospital, a home, a nursing home, anywhere that cares for people with a terminal illness.
- Hospice is not just for elderly people. It is available for anyone with a terminal illness.
- To qualify for hospice care, two physicians must certify that the patient has less than six months to live.
A hospice used to be a specific structure, often near but unattached to hospitals. Nowadays, such physical hospices are rare, and hospice care is provided in hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes.
Many people often confuse palliative care with hospice care. They are not the same. Palliative care can commence for any person with a severe illness, but in palliative care, the medical team will treat the patient’s underlying illness in addition to supporting a good quality of life.
What Does Hospice Do?
- In hospice, all attempts to treat the patient’s illness are stopped.
- All medications and treatments are given only to alleviate symptoms. The focus is on the comfort of the patient as the illness takes its course.
- Hospice care has a strong emphasis on compassion: our team will work to improve the quality of life of the patient’s remaining days.
- We also emphasize looking after the family’s needs, helping them manage their grief and lessening the burden of caregiving.
Medical interventions in hospice include, as you might expect, medicine to treat nausea, pain, fatigue, and respiration difficulties. But modern hospice services also include other treatments meant to improve quality of life. Physical therapy can help alleviate pain and improve the patient’s range of motion. Occupational therapy can help a patient do the things he enjoys best. Speech therapy can help a patient communicate with his loved ones and retain control of his swallowing muscles as the illness progresses. And the modern hospice definition includes emotional, social, and spiritual care for patients and their families.
What Is Hospice Care at Home?
Much hospice care happens in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. However, most people who need hospice care prefer to receive such services in the comfort of their own homes.
This often does not happen. Despite the wishes of many patients wanting to avoid hospitalization at the end of their lives, many are placed in hospitals for hospice care. This is due to several reasons: some might not know that hospice care at home is not an option. Others might doubt their ability to take care of ill family members, or they are unsure about the capabilities of home hospice care.
This does not have to be the case. What is hospice care at home for, if not the comfort of patients and families? Expert, professional home hospice care is available from Unique Care Los Angeles Hospice, helping loved ones end their days in the comfort of their own home.
- In modern home hospice care, the family of the patient is the center of the hospice team.
- The family is in control of the services and support the patient receives.
- Our hospice medical teams support families. We do not replace them as caregivers.
- Our duty is to provide top-quality, dignified end-of-life care to patients.
- We also support grieving families. All of UCLAH’s staff are sensitive to the grief and dignity of families and patients.
The Team Members
As mentioned above, the patient and family form the core of a hospice team. To support them are a variety of professional staff who are well-versed in providing end-of-life care. So what does hospice do to support the patient and family?
- A terminally ill patient and their family will no doubt be familiar with doctors. When a patient is admitted to hospice, our hospice doctor will get in touch with the patient’s previous doctors to obtain a complete medical history and a description of the patient’s current state. Our doctor will then prescribe medicine and recommend the patient be seen by other hospice team members who can help the patient improve her quality of life.
- A managing nurse will oversee the treatment of the hospice patient. Our nurses regularly visit the patient’s home to assess the patient, note the progress of the illness, and administer medicine. As the patient’s condition worsens or otherwise changes, our nurse will interact with other team members to update the health care plan. If family members have concerns or observations about the patient’s care, the nurse will be the person to speak to.
- The care staff who will most often visit the home of the patient is the health aide. Our home health aides are known for the compassion and gentle care they provide. Since aides visit the patient so often and help so much with aspects of personal care, they often form strong bonds with their patients.
- Aside from medical staff, hospice teams include people who can help in vital other ways. When dealing with the grief inherent in caring for a terminally ill family member, it can be unbearable to deal with paperwork for billing and legal issues. This is where our hospice social worker comes in. Hospice social workers are experts in dealing with the paperwork involved in end-of-life care: they can help the patient make a will or other directives, they can sort out insurance billing and medical benefits, and they can organize and explain funeral costs. Should family members need extra help, social workers can connect them with grief counselors.
- What is a hospice if it does not provide whole-patient care? Chaplains provide critical emotional and spiritual support to patients and family members. Our chaplains are trained to help the spiritual needs of the terminally ill and their families. Chaplains can help patients and families feel at peace during the final stages of life.
- As mentioned above, the family is the center of the hospice team. All visits are scheduled with the approval of the patient’s family, and the medical team is trained in helping the family through their grief. Every staff member at UCLAH knows that hospice care involves caring for families as well as patients.