What is Hospice? First, it is a type of care and philosophy that focuses on the palliation of a chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, as well as attending to their emotional and spiritual needs. OK – so what is palliation? Palliation is a service that makes you feel better even though it can’t cure you.
Hospice is a positive addition to our medicare system because the focus is the patient. The goal is to keep each patient as comfortable as possible. This means additional care over what your loved one is already receiving. Between nurses, social workers and priests, there is someone there two to three times a week to make certain there is no pain or discomfort.
The other side of this service is that it is run by medicare. That means that Hospice is free if you’re in Medicare as most of our seniors are. This also means not all Hospice providers are the same. There are thousands of Hospice providers and you have to be certain that they are doing their job (much like those Medicare doctors I’ve described in earlier articles).
I’ve had two different patients in different facilities with different providers and the difference was night and day. One provider is in a nursing home that accepts medicaid patients, we’ll call it A for purposes of this article. The other provider was for a client who lived in an assisted living facility – one that cost $4500/month. This Provider is called F.
A little background – once a patient has been admitted to Hospice, its doctors, nurses and aides “rule” the care. If the patient is a diabetic he or she will still stay on diabetes medicine but perhaps be taken off non-essential medication depending on the comfort level. Yes, the facility still feeds and provides a clean environment but Hospice is in charge of the patients comfort.
In most nursing homes the patients are in full blown dementia but not necessarily at the end of their life physically. Therefore, it is much more difficult to qualify for Hospice in a nursing home. However, once the patient is accepted the care for my nursing home client was beyond great. Her nurse was Mark and I could call anytime to check on her (once the children had given their permission)
The other client was in an Assisted Living Facility and qualified for Hospice before the children asked. They had no indication he was in his last days, weeks or months. Once their loved one become uncomfortable and disoriented they started receiving a “run around.” Parent Your Parents was asked to intervene. Here’s what we found, the Assisted Living Center blamed it on Hospice and Hospice blamed it on the Assisted Living Center. We started calling the Hospice office daily to ask for more help. Hospice told the children that babysitters were needed (at $20/hour). That is when we went into advocate mode. I reminded the Hospice company that their job was comfort and they had to start providing real comfort, not advice to the children and Assisted Living Center’s employees! Remember these companies make money and paying people to babysit takes away from their bottom line. The end result, this Hospice company did what they advertised and found a bed in an extremely lovely location where the client passed away comfortably and peacefully.
Bottom line – not all Hospice is created equal.
If you haven’t seen the video of the residents of a nursing home in Houston, Texas sitting in waist high water simply search “video of seniors in waist high water” in your browser. School children were evacuated, families were evacuated and who was left behind . . . seniors. Two weeks later, in the aftermath of Irma, 14 seniors die from overheating in a Broward County Nursing Home.
If these seniors had been children, the outcry would have been much louder and punishment swifter. An excellent example is the most recent earthquake in Mexico. The school that fell down on top of 24 children and four adults had rescuers there in minutes with TV crews transmitting the entire search for more than three days. I fear that would not be the case if this had been a home where senior citizens lived.
It is this dichotomy that led me and my partners to found Parent Your Parents (PYP)(parentyourparents.com). How could anyone allow their “charge” to drown or die from overheating. Yes, these Assisted Living Centers and Medicaid funded nursing homes are negligent but isn’t that also the case for the families who left them there? Would they have ever done that to their children??
There is no criticism here — simply a look in the mirror. If your parents or grandparents are in one of these homes today the chances are EXCELLENT that you will be as well. Yes, we can buy Long Term Care Insurance but today’s policies don’t cover you for the duration of your life. We are living longer and unless you have a minimum of $5 million there is a very good chance you will use all your money in the last five years of your life for healthcare.
As a child of an aging parent or loved one there comes a time and you must take charge. It isn’t easy and it wasn’t easy for them when you were a cute kid begging for a kitty and they said no. But, if it’s time – face it .
First, honestly asses where they are mentally and physically. Discuss options with your siblings and present a united front — just like your parents did when you were a child. You must have a Living Will, you must have a Power of Attorney – one for finance, one for medical. You must go to the doctor with them and make certain they are receiving the best medical care. The doctors MUST know that you are on top of their health. (Remember, I fired my parents doctor, see Article 2 – How to Get the Best Care Through Medicare),
Secondly — ask them what insurance they have . . . is it life insurance, supplemental health insurance, burial policy, Long Term Care —- and, the most difficult question — what is their financial status? None of this is easy but none of it takes financial acuity — it takes emotion, love, tenderness and hand holding. Remember when you were a kid and your parents took you through some of life’s trials with the same skills?
Disasters like Irma, Maria and earthquakes bring out the best and the worst. Now is the time to be the best.