Hospice is a benefit and a philosophy of care that allows those with a life-limiting illness to continue to live life to the fullest. This benefit offers access to an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals with the expertise necessary to help and empower patients and families to manage their care in the comfort of their own home. This holistic approach utilizes a team approach, which includes the patient and the family, to address physical, social, spiritual, emotional, and personal care needs.

This team, together with the patient and family, consists of healthcare professionals and includes a nurse, aide, chaplain, social worker, bereavement coordinator, the hospice medical director, access to volunteer services, and often, the patient’s primary physician or specialist. 

Hospice is designed to enhance the level of care and services provided in the home environment—whether that be a personal home; a family member’s home; an independent, assisted, or specialty care assisted living facility; a nursing home; an inpatient unit; or a hospital. These services are not intended to diminish the role of the patient and the caregiver. Instead, the team’s goal is to provide people and their families with options regarding the most appropriate level of care to meet their needs, with the ability to increase services as their needs increase. 

Access to these services are included in the Medicare hospice benefit and are covered through Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurances (when a person is appropriate for hospice care). Springhill Home Health and Hospice also provides indigent hospice care for those who meet the Medicare guidelines for hospice, regardless of their ability to pay for services.

Services include:

  • pain and symptom management to relieve symptoms, promote comfort and enhance quality of life
  • resources and education to the patient and family for how to best manage symptoms and care
  • visits from members of the interdisciplinary team
  • 24/7/365 access to a nurse by telephone
  • spiritual and emotional support for patients and their families
  • medical equipment, supplies, and medications related to the hospice diagnosis
  • bereavement care

Ideally, hospice should be considered when a loved one has an incurable condition that no longer responds to curative treatments. Families often report that they wish they had elected the hospice benefit sooner in their disease process. Articulating your wishes with your loved ones through advanced care planning can help you and your medical provider identify the need for hospice services sooner.

In general, care and end-of-life discussions should begin as soon as a patient is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. Examples of life-limiting illnesses include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
  • Stroke
  • ALS
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Heart Disease
  • Pulmonary Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • End-stage Renal Disease
  • AIDS
  • Cancer
  • Protein Calorie Malnutrition (or debilitating malnutrition)

A life limiting illness, coupled with symptoms like the ones listed below, could be indicators of decline and hospice eligibility:

  • Frequent hospitalizations, ER visits, or visits to the physician within the last six months
  • Progressive weight loss (with consideration to weight gain factors such as edema, when applicable)
  • Decreasing appetite
  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • Increased weakness or fatigue
  • Decline in cognitive status or functional abilities
  • Increasing assistance needed with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
  • Increasing pain or increasing difficulty in controlling pain
  • Increasing dyspnea or shortness of breath
  • Oxygen dependency
  • Reoccurring infections
  • Ascites
  • Increased nausea and/or vomiting that is difficult to control
  • A desire to forgo future hospitalizations
  • A request to discontinue treatment
  • Recurrent or frequent infections
  • Skin breakdown
  • A specific decline in condition

If you or a loved one has a life-limiting illness and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consider speaking to your physician about hospice services. Anyone may request or inquire about hospice services, but hospice must be ordered by a physician. Call Springhill Home Health and Hospice today at (251) 725-1268 and one of our team members can guide you through the process of requesting hospice through your physician.