Frequently Asked Questions
"We wish we had entered the hospice program sooner." This is a common and frequent statement made by patients and their families. The fact is, patients and families can benefit most when they receive hospice care for weeks or months rather than a few days before a family member dies. Answers to the following questions may relieve your concerns about calling on Ogeechee Area Hospice when the time is right.
Why choose Ogeechee Area Hospice, a not-for-profit hospice?
Ogeechee Area Hospice is an independent community-based, not-for-profit organization. Funds in not-for-profit endeavors must be reinvested in the organization and its mission. Rather than focusing on generating profits, we reinvest revenue into patient and family care which, with the additional funding, exceeds the basic regulatory guidelines. The exceptional reputation of Ogeechee Area Hospice and the construction of our state-of-the-art inpatient facility are testimony to this. Funds are also utilized in our broad bereavement support activities and end-of-life education to our community. Ogeechee Area Hospice is community founded, community governed and community supported. Our stockholders are our patients, their families and our service community.
Why weeks or months of Hospice Care?
Early referral to Hospice gives way to essential benefits. A patient and his or her family benefit more fully from weeks or months of hospice care.
- When a patient is diagnosed with a life-ending illness, hospice will provide care to support and enhance the last stages of the patient's life improving the quality of life for both the patient and the family. This approach to care manages the patient's pain and symptoms giving the patient and family time together that is more peaceful and rewarding.
- Support from hospice nurses, nursing assistants, social workers and other team members can be rendered in the comfort of the patient’s home (or in the nursing home), where surroundings are familiar and normal routines can be maintained.
- Due to frequent monitoring by a hospice registered nurse and excellent symptom control, repeat hospitalizations and/or visits to an emergency room can be greatly reduced or halted.
- Financial burdens can be reduced because medications for symptom control and medical equipment needed for improved function are provided at no cost.
- Your questions and concerns are consistently addressed. Even late at night our RNs are only a phone call away.
When should we consider contacting Ogeechee Area Hospice?
- At some point in time, if your loved one has been living with a chronic illness, such as heart disease, lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s or a myriad of illnesses, symptoms become more pronounced with more frequent episodes of acute symptoms and/or physical decline.
- Individuals with cancer who have not responded to curative treatment reach a point in time when such treatment is futile or even harmful.
What are some signs that my loved ones may be eligible for hospice care?
- An increase in pain, nausea, breathing distress or other symptoms
- Two to three hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room during the past year
- Failure to "bounce back" after medical a set-back occurs
- Increasing assistance needed for walking, eating, bathing, dressing and/or going to the toilet
- Decreasing alertness whereby patient is emotionally withdrawn, sleeping more or having increased difficulty with comprehension
- You are physically and/or emotionally exhausted from caring for your loved one
- You are overwhelmed by the myriad of physical, financial, emotional and spiritual concerns arising because of the illness
How does hospice work?
The patient is typically cared for at home, in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Scheduled visits are made by the registered nurses to monitor the patient's condition and to provide appropriate care and maintain patient comfort. The number of visits per week depends on the needs of the patient and family. Hospice nursing assistants may also render care on scheduled days, or even daily when needed. Visits by the social worker and chaplain support emotional and spiritual needs and volunteers can assist with various tasks. Medical equipment such as a hospital bed can easily be obtained for the home when needed. Medical equipment such as bandages, catheters and medications for symptom control is also part of the hospice benefit. Short-term inpatient care is available in the Ogeechee Area Hospice Inpatient Center when required.
If we are at home, how will I know what to do?
Ogeechee Area Hospice nurses and other team members work with each family to teach them how to care for their loved one. The staff will visit regularly and are always available to answer questions. When your loved one is at home, nights can be especially stressful and long as the disease progresses. Ogeechee Area Hospice is available around the clock by phone and nurses make night visits as needed. Ogeechee Area Hospice is always just a phone call away.
How much does hospice care cost?
Those over the age of 65 are entitled to the Medicare hospice benefit. This benefit covers virtually all aspects of hospice care. In addition, most private health plans and Medicaid also cover hospice services. No one is denied hospice services due to a lack of insurance of financial resources at Ogeechee Area Hospice because of its not-for-profit status.
Won’t the doctors tell us when it’s time for hospice care?
Not always. Many physicians hesitate to approach the subject of hospice because they don’t want to destroy your hope. Your doctor may actually be relieved if you suggest that the comprehensive support of hospice is being considered. With certain warning signs, such as repeated acute symptoms, weight loss, physical decline and/or other clinical markers, the physician can assume that your loved one may have a prognosis of six months or less. The six-month prognosis is a guideline; hospice re-evaluates patients every 60 days. As long as the clinical markers remain and/or a decline in health continues, they are re-certified for hospice coverage for as long as they live.
Will our doctor still be involved in my loved one’s care?
Absolutely! The primary physician will continue to manage your loved one’s medical care. If your loved one is able to continue with routine office visits and wishes to see their primary physician, this is appropriate and encouraged. If not, the hospice RN will be the physician’s eyes and ears, and will report any significant changes to the doctor.
Others tell me that calling on Hospice is giving up hope?
Having an illness that cannot be cured can lead to feelings of sadness, anger and pain. However, it is a fact that the support of Ogeechee Area Hospice can help relieve the problems associated with this stressful challenge. According to recent research, patients with certain illnesses actually live longer under hospice care.
Can we call Ogeechee Area Hospice even if we don’t think it’s "time"?
Absolutely. An important part of our mission is providing guidance to families about any end-of-life care issue, whether or not they’re on our program. You do not need a physician referral to call us for information. If it appears that hospice care would be beneficial, we will – with your permission – contact your doctor to discuss it.
Does Hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
Patients who are admitted to the Hospice program are at varying stages of their disease. Sometimes they have weeks or months of living ahead of them. Ogeechee Area Hospice does nothing to speed up or slow down the end-of-life process. Regardless of the patient’s condition, medications for symptom management are very carefully monitored to ensure that they are both safe and effective. In fact, the comfort care and symptom control often extend life.
Why choose hospice care if my loved one is in a nursing home or an assisted living facility?
Not everyone knows that Medicare pays for hospice care in nursing homes and in an assisted living facility (ALF). The same hospice Medicare benefit that is available in a person's home is also available to individuals whose residence happens to be a nursing home or ALF. Your loved one will receive the additional care and attention that hospice provides in the last months of life. According to the American Academy of Physicians, "No group of terminally ill patients could benefit more from hospice care than those residing in nursing homes. Rather than trying to cure an illness hospice efforts are directed toward making the patient comfortable, easing pain and supporting the family through a difficult time."
Can a patient stop having hospice care?
Yes. A patient always has the right to choose what type of care he or she receives. If the patient and the physician decide to try another approach, we will assist them in making that transition.
When would my loved one need the Ogeechee Area Hospice Inpatient Center?
- Symptom Management- Sometimes patients who are at home or in a nursing home under hospice care experience increased pain, anxiety or other symptoms that current medications are not controlling. When this happens, the hospice nurse will make a recommendation for the Inpatient Center where 24-hour monitoring of the patient can occur. Once the acute symptoms have been controlled, the patient may return home or to the nursing home.
- When death is not desired or possible in the home setting- A patient or his or her family may desire that care be given in the Inpatient Center during the final days of life.
- Respite Care- Ogeechee Area Hospice is aware of the emotional and physical strain of caring for an ailing loved one. When the care becomes an overwhelming burden, patients may stay in the Inpatient Center for a period of respite. Respite care is also available when a caregiver must leave town for a short time, when a caregiver must have a medical procedure, or other times that the hospice nurse deems appropriate.