Terminally ill residents in many states can receive hospice care, also known as end-of-life care, without leaving their senior living community. Many assisted living communities embrace a “aging in place” philosophy in response to seniors’ desires. This means that assisted living and hospice caregivers collaborate to provide residents with increased levels of care in their assisted living community, within limits.
“Hospice is concerned with the person, not the disease. It prioritizes the patient’s wishes and priorities in the care plan. “Hospice focuses on quality of life and assisting a person to live as fully as possible despite having a terminal illness,” says Jon Radulovic, vice president of communications at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association in Alexandria, Virginia.
Hospice services are now available in senior living communities.
It is a common misconception among seniors that they must travel to another location to receive hospice care. In fact, while there are hospice facilities, the vast majority of people receive hospice care at home, according to Radulovic. In most states, receiving hospice care within an assisted living facility is an option, but the difference between hospice and assisted living services is that nurses, aides, and other care providers must travel to the community to meet the resident’s needs.
There are numerous advantages to receiving hospice care in an assisted living facility. Hospice care teams provide seniors with physical and emotional support in their final months, weeks, or days. They also assist family members in making end-of-life decisions. Residents spend their final days in the comfort of their own homes because assisted living provides these services.
Hospice care services include the following:
- Pain relief and symptom control
- Spiritual and emotional support for feelings associated with death
- Assist with medication dosing and scheduling
- Services of a doctor and a nurse
- Family members can use this information to help them with their caring responsibilities, and they can also get help with the transition.
- Occupational and physical therapy
According to Radulovic, four states — Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, and North Dakota — do not allow hospice care to be provided in an assisted living community. Hospice care is permitted in other states at the discretion of the senior community.
Some states require assisted living communities to notify a regulatory agency when a resident requires hospice care. This is accomplished by submitting a waiver, which establishes that a care agreement has been established between the hospice provider and the assisted living community.
Don’t put off speaking with staff or caregivers at your loved one’s community, and if possible, do your research on hospice providers ahead of time, advises Radulovic. Residents who are terminally ill and their families have a better chance of finding appropriate hospice care if they seek providers sooner rather than later. Hospice Care in Assisted Living Facility in Illinois.
“Hospice is associated with imminent death, which is incorrect,” says Radulovic. “It’s best suited for the last few months of life, not the last few days.”
When a resident requires hospice care, the assisted living community and interdisciplinary team collaborate to develop an organized care plan. This includes providing detailed answers to questions such as
- Who is on call for the resident at night?
- Which doctor is in charge of issuing orders?
- In the event of an emergency, who should be contacted?
- Is there any special packaging needed for medications?
- When and who is administering treatments?
Medicare pays for hospice care and treatments.
Medicare and the majority of private health insurance plans cover hospice care in assisted living facilities. It provides “comfort care,” or care that relieves pain and discomfort when a patient’s illness is no longer responding to treatment. The hospice benefit from Medicare covers the care team, equipment, medications, and therapies. “It’s intended to be all-inclusive,” Radulovic says.
To be eligible for Medicare benefits, a person must meet the following criteria:
- You must be 65 or older.
- You’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness.
- Have a doctor’s certification that the patient has six months or less to live.
- Agree to forego life-saving treatment.
- Select a Medicare-accepting provider.
Medicare covers hospice care for two 90-day periods, followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods. A doctor must reassess whether the patient has six months or less to live at the start of each care period.
There is no deductible for hospice services, but there may be a small co-payment for medications. The Veterans Administration also offers hospice care to veterans. Medicaid can also cover hospice care for those who qualify.
Hospice is not the same as palliative care.
Although hospice and palliative care both aim to alleviate pain and improve a person’s quality of life, there are significant differences between the two types of care.
- Time spent on care – Hospice care is intended for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less. In palliative care, there are no time constraints.
- Curative treatments are typically included in palliative care. – Hospice patients decline this option because hospice care is only available to those who have a terminal prognosis. Hospice’s goal is to make a person’s final days as comfortable, meaningful, and peaceful as possible.
Hospice care can help people live longer lives in assisted living facilities.
Despite popular belief, hospice is not synonymous with “giving up,” according to Radulovic. “This is genuine medicine and genuine care. Hospice care can improve the quality of life and, in some cases, lengthen it.”
In a study of nearly 4,500 Medicare beneficiaries, hospice patients had a 29-day longer average survival period than non-hospice patients. Patients who received hospice care for congestive heart failure, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, or colon cancer had significantly longer average survival times than patients who did not receive hospice care.
In most cases, a doctor’s referral is all that is required for a patient to be eligible for hospice care. Hospice care can be terminated at any time by the patient if they decide to pursue curative treatments.
Hospice also provides services to patients’ families.
Hospice providers help bring peace of mind to the patient’s family by working to meet all of the patient’s needs. Hospice services provide this collective care in the following ways:
- Coordination of care
- Once a patient is enrolled in hospice, the provider organizes and manages all aspects of care by developing a comprehensive plan in collaboration with the assisted living community and the patient’s family.
- Management of pain and symptoms
- All medical care is geared toward assisting patients in making the most of their remaining time. The goal is to keep other symptoms under control while minimizing pain.
- Support for daily activities
- Hospice collaborates with assisted living communities to arrange for daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating.
- Management of medical supplies
- All supplies and equipment required for hospice care are provided.
- These professionals can assist patients and their families in dealing with anticipatory grief. Following a death, some programs provide bereavement services to assist families in their grieving process.
Hospice has a diverse and supportive staff.
Hospice care in assisted living aims to provide residents with a comfortable and dignified end-of-life experience.
A hospice care team is often made up of people from various professions.
- Nurses and doctors
- Aides in the home
Hospice nurses play an especially important role in coordinating care plans with the staff of assisted living communities. Although hospice nurses provide care, they do more than just administer medications such as pain relievers and sedatives. They educate the patient’s primary caregiver about their condition and offer ongoing emotional support and counseling to the patient and loved ones.
“A hospice team has skills that are specific to someone who is nearing the end of their life,” Radulovic says. “A hospice nurse can be turned into a person’s unique needs at the end of life.”
Hospice also offers respite care, which allows loved ones to take a break from caring for the sick. Volunteers are regularly scheduled to assist with errands and meal delivery. The care plan may be adjusted weekly based on the availability of team members and the patient’s updated needs.