Transitions With Jean Blog

Hospice vs. Palliative Care

October 6, 2019

Dear Jean,

What exactly is Hospice? Is it different from Palliative Care?

For the answer, I turned to David Chapman, account executive at Ascension Hospice. Chapman is one of those people who radiates compassion.

He explained that when there is a terminal disease, you want to meet people on their journey of life, wherever they are at. Some people are going to be aggressively, actively treating the disease and other people reach a point when they say, “I’m done fighting; I am literally dying.”

“Palliative care is for those who are actively treating their disease and seeking answers. They aren’t done fighting. Palliative care brings in the physician, nurse, and support systems to help on this journey and let them know they aren’t alone. Together, the team works on solutions.”

“For those who say, ‘I am done fighting’, then hospice is appropriate.” Chapman points out that it isn’t a bad thing to make that choice, it is just where they are. “It is about choosing what happens next. Should we run more tests or procedures? If we find something, are we then going to treat it? Probably not. But,” he pointed out, “those choices are still yours.”

As part of the certification for hospice care, a doctor has to say, “In my professional opinion, this person has less than six months to live, if things continue as they are.”

“For most hospices, the biggest thing we focus on is compassionate comfort and quality of life. So, the hospice team will provide a nurse and will provide a nursing assistant to come in and help with daily care. We will have a chaplain, a social worker, volunteers, and bereavement support. We provide equipment if you need it, perhaps a hospital bed, wheelchair or incontinence products. We come to your home, wherever that is: the homestead, an apartment, assisted living or a nursing home. We provide support to you and those dear to you, both physically and emotionally.

Your mom may say, “I am ready to die,” and the kids reply, “Mom, don’t talk like that.” But Mom is ready to die. Listen to her. She is really saying, “I’ve worked hard. I’ve lived a good life. I’m done fighting.” So, respect that. Meet her where she is at. You might not agree with the decision, but the decision is hers. We then ask how we can support her in this journey.”

I asked Chapman if hospice is covered by insurance. He answered, “Medicare, as well as most insurance, will pay the cost of hospice. Each hospice is different, but Ascension has a mission of helping people, and if someone really doesn’t have a payor or the money, we’ll figure it out.”

“Does hospice have a negative connotation?” I asked.

Chapman answered, “With hospice, there is hope, not just for the person, but also for those closest to them. By having conversations and talking over things, it can give a sense of peace. You only have one chance to die, and we should die being supported.”

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