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Hospice Care: Understanding The “Who”

It’s not unusual to unearth misconceptions about hospice when discussing it as a healthcare option.

One of the prime misconceptions has to do with exactly who is eligible.

Basically, it’s anyone who’s been diagnosed by a qualified physician with a terminal illness and has six months to live or less.

As with virtually anything, there are a few asterisks to consider, but patient access specialists like Lindsey Cosgrove of Emmanuel Hospice emphasize that when in doubt, simply make a phone call to schedule a meeting to gather information specific to your medical situation.

“Too many people have this notion that hospice is mainly for the 98-year-old grandma or grandpa who has a day or a few days to live,” Cosgrove says. “That’s why we’re so eager to provide education, whether it be for a patient or that patient’s family or caregiver.”

Armed with information makes it easier for someone contemplating hospice to zero in on whether it’s something they should choose sooner or later, she says.

Cosgrove and others at Emmanuel – especially clinical teams comprised of nurses, social workers, spiritual caregivers and various therapists – can cite too many times when a person was frightened or misinformed and waited until the last minute to sign on for care.

“The number of people who tell us they wish they would have called us sooner?” Cosgrove poses.

“A lot.”

What too many fail to realize are the ways in which hospice can intervene weeks or months before a person dies. Sometimes, they’re swayed by physicians who are intent on curing their malady when in fact the illness is destined to result in the person’s death.

Still others are fearful that hospice will take away all their medications and not manage their symptoms. “That’s just not true,” says Cosgrove, explaining how rather than focusing on cures, hospice promotes palliative care, which leans on strategies to improve comfort and quality of life while relieving symptoms.

Those strategies might involve anything from a supervised drug regimen to visits from skilled nurses, spiritual advisors and aides – and treatments from therapists specializing in aromatherapy, music, massage and much more.

Another misconception is that hospice is available only to those in a hospital setting. Again, untrue, says Cosgrove, noting that organizations like Emmanuel Hospice will meet you virtually anywhere you live – in your house, apartment, condo, retirement community and more.

Another thing to consider is that Medicare and most commercial insurances cover 100% of virtually everything provided by hospice – visits, medicine, aides, counseling and other services. Again, there are some limitations, but one call to Emmanuel will help you discover where you stand. “If you’re unsure about how you qualify, we’re ready to assist,” Cosgrove says.

Cosgrove emphasizes that it all begins with that conversation: “We deal with a fair number of people who aren’t even sick, but just want to have as much information in hand ahead of time. It’s all about planning for the future, and learning in the moment so that when the time comes, you have clarity.”