What are the criteria for someone to become hospice eligible?

Hospice is for people with advanced illnesses. Hospice is traditionally an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less. A hospice patient’s disease diagnosis can include end-stage chronic illnesses such as lung, heart, and kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, dementia, strokes, ALS, neurological diseases, and cancer. After six months has passed,  a doctor can certify a patient can continue to have a limited life expectancy and hospice care can continue.

What happens if a hospice patient lives longer than six months?

Hospice care does not automatically end after six months. If the patient lives longer than six months, hospice care can continue as long as the doctor and the hospice team re-certify that the patient continues to have a limited life expectancy and if the terminal illness or disease runs its normal course.

Can a patient be discharged from hospice?

Yes. Sometimes with the excellent, individualized care hospice offers, symptoms subside or are controlled, patients feel better, and they can eat more, do more, and get some strength back. When a patient’s condition improves so much he or she is no longer eligible for hospice care, the patient can be discharged. A hospice social worker can assist in finding needed resources. Hospice will stay in touch with the patient, and if his or her condition changes, the patient can be readmitted to hospice care.

Does hospice serve children?

Yes. Infants, children, and adults who face an advanced illness can be hospice patients. We also offer bereavement for grieving children and young adults through Sunrise Kids in-school programs, individual counseling, and Sunshine Camps.

In hospice care, do you have to stop all your medicines and treatment?

Enrolling in hospice care means that your treatment and medicines have a different focus. Instead of trying to cure your disease, the hospice team, with your doctor, will recommend medicine and treatment that will lessen your symptoms – pain, nausea, constipation, shortness of breath or anxiety – with the goal of helping you feel better so you can make the most of the time you have remaining.

Do treatments like blood transfusions, palliative chemotherapy or radiation have to stop when patients enroll in hospice?

Our open access program allows for treatments that help relieve pain and symptoms to continue while patients receive hospice care. Most often these include blood transfusions, palliative chemotherapy or radiation.

Will hospice hasten my loved one’s death?

No. Studies have shown patients who had hospice care lived longer than similar patients who did not have hospice care. Hospice focuses on living – helping patients live as fully and comfortably as possible. Hospice care provides compassionate support to allow your loved one to live out his or her remaining days in comfort and dignity.

Are DNR forms mandatory for hospice patients?

Our hospice patients are not required to have a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) in place. We believe no decisions should be forced upon hospice patients. The goal of hospice is patient comfort with the patient directing care.

Can I keep my doctor in hospice?

Yes. With hospice care you have a choice. You can have your physician continue to be available to you and your family and coordinate your care with hospice staff. Our hospice team members will work closely with your doctor in administering and providing your care. Or you can choose to have our agency physicians, who have extensive experience and expertise in hospice and palliative care, assume primary responsibility for your care.

Do patients have to go to a hospice care center?

No. Most – about 95 percent – of our hospice patients are served in their homes, including assisted living facilities, rest homes, and nursing homes. The rest are served in our care centers and hospitals. Patients are admitted to hospice care centers for short-term, around-the-clock monitoring, for family members to gain caregiving skills or receive rest from caregiving, and if patients cannot be cared for at home.

Why is hospice needed in a nursing home which already has staff to care for the patient?

Together, hospice and long-term care providers give nursing home residents extra care and support at the end of life, when they need it most. This partnership offers benefits that include expertise in pain and symptom management, individualized personal care for hospice care patients, information for making end-of-life care decisions, education about treatment options, patient and family emotional and spiritual support, 24-hour on-call service, and hospice expenses covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurances.

What is the Bridge Program?

The Bridge Program is a collaborative service between Lower Cape Fear Hospice and home health agencies for patients who are homebound and have a skilled nursing need who are not ready for hospice. Consults by hospice team members manage pain and symptoms, create a plan for end-of-life care, and discuss advance directives and healthcare options.

How is hospice paid for?

Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurances. Grants, donations, and fundraising activities help Lower Cape Fear Hospice provide care to patients regardless of ability to pay. Medications and equipment related to the hospice diagnosis are included and delivered to patients.

How can someone become a hospice volunteer?

Potential volunteers attend a training orientation before they begin. Training gives an in-depth overview of agency programs, services, and philosophy; discusses volunteer opportunities; and highlights end-of-life care issues and concerns. People interested in learning more about volunteering can call 910-796-7900 and ask for the volunteer coordinator for the county where they live.

How long does Lower Cape Fear Hospice provide grief support?

Hospice provides grief support to hospice patient family members for 13 months after the death of their loved one. In addition, our Bereavement Department offers grief support for adults and children through a variety of short-term individual counseling, support groups and workshops for adults and in-school, healing arts therapy, and day Sunshine Camps for children in the community as well as those served by hospice.

Who can refer a patient to hospice?

Anyone – family, friends, physicians, hospitals, clergy, and patients themselves – can refer to hospice by calling 800-207-6908. Lower Cape Fear Hospice staff members will meet with patients with an advanced illness to learn about concerns, determine needs, answer questions, and explain the benefits of hospice services in more detail. There is no obligation or cost for this visit.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is healthcare for individuals of any age who have a chronic, serious illness. The goal of palliative care is to ease pain and symptoms and provide support and information to patients and their loved ones. The Lower Cape Fear Hospice palliative care team works with patients and their physicians to determine the goals of care and options for treatment. At this time, the palliative care team serves patients in New Hanover and Pender counties at the three hospitals and in contracted nursing homes. Patients are also served in their homes throughout New Hanover County and most of Pender County. Plans are to develop programs in additional hospitals and nursing homes throughout the agency’s six-county service area.

What is the focus of palliative care?

Palliative care addresses the patient’s medical, emotional and spiritual needs. It offers support to patients and their caregivers. Palliative care encourages discussion between patients, families and health care professionals in determining the patient’s goals and medical plan of care. As a patient’s disease progresses, the palliative care team adjusts its support services to the patient and family as their needs change. Palliative care makes a better quality of life possible for patients and their loved ones by providing the best possible quality of care.

Who can receive palliative care?

Patients with chronic, long-term or serious illnesses are appropriate for palliative care. Palliative care is available to individuals to help with pain management, relief of suffering and education on their disease progression and prognosis. Family members are included in the plan of care, and the palliative care team provides support and information to them as well as the patient.