Jeanne Howard, LPN and homecare and hospice liaison for Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services, has heard the misperception about hospice care.
“There is that stigma that hospice means death,” she said. “But hospice is really all about quality of life and living in comfort. We’re not there to shorten a loved one’s life. We are there to enhance their loved one’s life.”
Hospice care has proven to be beneficial to families. Howard said that deciding on hospice care may not be an easy choice, but educating caregivers is an important first step.
Hospice care is available after a doctor’s order, and is typically given to those with terminal conditions with a life expectancy of six months or less. Those who aren’t sure whether their loved one may qualify can get a better understanding through this short survey.
“A lot of times families are scared to death,” she said. “They don’t know how much help they are going to get and where they are going to get it from.”
Howard said a social worker or hospice aide can help provide many services that a potential hospice patient may need, and said Liberty personnel are always willing to come out and help educate the patient and their family.
“What happens in a hospice care situation is, we first get a call from a case manager,” she said. “I go out and talk to the patient and their family, explain what the services are and how it will affect them, and then answer any questions they may have.”
Howard said the next step is giving potential hospice patients written information, allowing them time to talk things over with their family and also research Medicare eligibility. The family can then follow up with the case manager or hospice provider.
“If they have questions I can’t answer, Liberty likes to involve a hospice nurse on a second visit,” Howard said. “The hospice nurse can help answer questions and reinforce what I have told them. I think that can help potential hospice patients feel better about the hospice care because they know she will be the one to take care of them.”
Hospice aides typically visit patients three to five times a week, and help them do day-to-day activities.
“Some hospice patients need help getting a bath or shower, and some may need help keeping their living area clean,” Howard said. “Our hospice aides provide hands-on help, including helping them from a bed to a wheelchair. Sometimes, the most important thing is just holding their hand and reading with them. Just knowing that the aide is coming is often comforting to a lot of patients.”
Liberty’s hospice service also includes a bereavement program for loved ones that can continue for a year and help with the grieving process. Howard said families have expressed thanks for having hospice care available.
“They appreciate their loved one getting such loving care,” she said. “They tell me how much it means to have someone come to their home and help, even if it is just holding their hand after the fact. They appreciate it all.”