May 16, 2012 | Modern Aging: Hospice care

Richmond — As seen in the RTD June 10th 2012

Modern Aging: Hospice care

By: KRISTAL BENNETT AND KATIE GILSTRAP | Special correspondents

Published: June 10, 2012

No matter how difficult it can be to face, there could come a time when the chances of a loved one's recovery are slim, and medical treatments might significantly damage their quality of life.

Some people in this situation prefer to spend their last days pain-free, visiting with family and friends and doing things that have meaning.

Hospice specializes in making sure patients are comfortable and that families are supported. Hospice care is typically delivered at home and includes:

Skilled medical care: A nurse regularly visits to check on the patient, respond to questions and concerns, make adjustments in pain medications and help with difficult symptoms.

Personal care: A nurse aide who visits regularly can assist with bathing, grooming and other personal-care matters.

Supportive care: Volunteers provide extra support for patients and families by doing things such as running errands, doing household chores, reading to a patient and listening. Patients often feel more comfortable talking to volunteers about death and dying. Other supportive-care services include visits from a spiritual or religious leader and access to a social worker for help with emotional or financial issues.

The hospice team is typically comprised of:

  • the patient
  • family
  • attending physician
  • medical director
  • registered nurses
  • nurse aides
  • social workers
  • chaplains
  • volunteers
  • a speech-language therapist
  • a physical therapist
  • an occupational therapist
  • spiritual counselors
  • bereavement specialists

Hospice care is covered by Medicare and Medicaid, and in Virginia, if a company is licensed to provide health insurance, it must have a hospice benefit in its plan. Medications and equipment are provided, and families have the right to choose their hospice agency.

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