November is National Hospice Month, and hospice caregivers want to draw attention to hospice and its benefits.
Hospice care is for those who are terminally ill. It tends to the physical, spiritual, psychological and social needs of patients and their families.
"We don't want patients to die alone and in pain. That's one of our goals," said Carol Mohagen, a social worker with Trinity Health's Home Health and Hospice. "We support patients and care for them until the end. Hopefully we're comforting to the patient and reassuring to the family."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Carol Mohagen, licensed social worker for Trinity Health’s Home Health and Hospice, reviews hospice and bereavement information.
Hospice staff can care for patients who in private homes, in nursing homes or in the hospital. The main concern is managing a patient's pain so they can have a higher quality of life. Patients may have questions about whether or not they can continue to receive treatments when going on hospice care.
"Sometimes, patients are concerned that if they have hospice, they can't have other treatments," Mohagen said. "We will sometimes look at other treatments, though they are not curative. Patients can still visit their doctors if they're having procedures. We just need to be aware of it."
"People have been known to go off hospice, if they have a rally after they go off treatments," she said. "To go off hospice, it's just a matter of signing a discharge form. If their condition changes, they can go back on."
Before a patient is admitted to the hospice program, they need a physician's orders. They will also continue to have their own primary care provider. Hospice staff also makes sure the patient has someone to provide care for them, whether it be a family member, adult foster care givers, hospital staff or nursing home staff.
Many patients choose to stay at home. Hospice can make that possible by covering the cost of equipment, everything from wheelchairs to a hospital bed; and providing round-the-clock support to supplement the care being received at home.
"Patients will tell us that it's nice to know they can call at 2 a.m. and somebody will answer and be there to help them," Mohagen said. "We have staff on call 24-7. Patients don't have to wait for the doctor or the ER. We can usually help them in their home."
For family members, hospice also offers respite care through volunteers. Respite caregivers can come into the home and care for the patient while a family member runs errands or rests.
Family members can also gain information about their loved one's condition and bereavement help from hospice.
"One of the hardest things for family members is to see that decline. We need to be there for families to help, to talk to them about what's normal, and let them know what they might expect. Knowing about these things can help alleviate fears," Mohagen said.
Mohagen explained that for many individuals, the first conversation they might have about hospice will be in a physician's office. Knowing about hospice care ahead of time can help individuals make choices.
"Hospice often has the connotation of dying, but hospice is about living out your days as best you can. None of us knows how many days we have. Our goal is, how can we make today better, and how can we manage pain symptoms while you're under treatment," Mohagen said.