Hospice is a highly stressful time for families and their parents.

People can only handle so much information at one time. When someone receives a terminal diagnosis, it causes enormous amounts of stress on everyone in the family.

I know because I went through this with my mom. Trying to wrap your head around the situation while trying to learn about hospice, home care, medical terminologies, and other stressed-out families is a lot for anyone to try and manage. 

One (of the many) myths about hospice is that you need hospice when you are imminently dying. This self-fulfilling myth occurs mainly people wait until the last days of life to sign onto hospice. Some families are in denial about the situation. Others don’t know their options.

There are patients on hospice for many months and, in some cases, years. We currently have a client who has been on hospice for over two years. As long as your doctor determines your disease is terminal in six months or less, you are eligible for hospice services.

 

Confusion of Hospice and Home Care

Hospice and home care work together regularly to help families and seniors who need care. Neither service can replace the other.

Hospice is a benefit through Medicare services that provide a nurse, social worker, Chaplin, and home health aides, but only for short periods. Private home care provides large blocks of time with an aide but is a cash business.

You may ask yourself, if we have hospice services for no cost, why would we pay for private home care? If I have a home health aide through hospice, why would I pay for a home health aide from Minute Women?

It’s a fair question.

A hospice home health aide will be in the home up to seven days a week for roughly an hour. This visitation varies significantly by the different agencies. Some hospice companies offer a home health aid three days a week, some five, others seven.

In Massachusetts (and most of the country), we have a shortage of home health aides. Many agencies cannot fulfill many promises of seven visits per week with a home health aide. There are too many cases with too few caregivers.

Even if the hospice agency is fulfilling their scheduled visits, there is never a guarantee they will show up at the same time each day. They are visiting dozens of hospice patients per week, all of which have changing needs. You will likely experience fluctuations schedules of the home health aides who do visit.

Having some overlap of the private caregiver and hospice caregiver is beneficial, too. Specific tasks, like changing linens, bathing, and cleaning a patient are safer for your parent when two aides provide assistance rather than one.

 

Who’s Providing Care?

The responsibility of home care puts strains on family members to become caregivers. If a hospice aide visits sporadically and their schedule is flexible, who cares for your parent the other 23 hours of the day?

Not everyone needs around-the-clock care, but many families decide it is best to have more visitation than less. This way, family members can spend as much quality time with their parents as possible before they pass away. Also, having home health aides provides dignity to a senior. Additionally, not everyone can drop everything to care for a family member. Kids need to be cared for, work will be calling, and homes need maintenance. So significant gaps of time when the primary family caregiver can’t be at their parent’s side occur.

For me, when my mother was sick with cancer, she didn’t want her family to see her going through basic hygiene rituals. Having a home health aide professional who has experience with these situations allows your parents the dignity they deserve, compared to having a family member become the primary caregiver. She didn’t want those to be her last memories with me.

Having a home health aide from a private agency ensures that your parent is being cared for, and when the hospice aide arrives, they can both assist your parent, especially if transferring, bed changing, or bathing is required. It is much safer to maneuver your parent with two aides rather than with one.

 

Medications

Medication administration also becomes crucial when someone is declining. Hospice agencies will schedule pre-drawn pain medications for family members to administer orally.  While that isn’t a problem during the day, it becomes an issue at night.  The schedules are even, set every two, four, six, eight, twelve hours apart. As someone is experiencing more pain and discomfort, they receive medications more often.

But who will administer medications from 8 pm to 8 am? My mother was receiving morphine every four hours. The thought of being up all night with her was too much for my father and me. We were exhausted by the end of the day. Our private aide administering medications provided us peace of mind that she took care of while we would recharge and get some sleep for another stressful day.

Families usually request overnight coverage for this very reason. It allows family members to rest at night and provide peace of mind that if their parent needs anything, an aide is available to assist. If there is an issue at night, the private home care company will provide instructions on reaching the on-call hospice nurse, as they are the quarterback, and we are following their directions and lead. Communication is key between the hospice agency and private agency. In case your parent is uncomfortable, we address the issue immediately.

 

Conclusion

Hospice and home care work together to provide the support and dignity your parent deserves. It’s not easy to go through hospice with a close family member, but by utilizing the senior care options at your disposal, you can provide as much comfort and respect as possible. If you need help taking care of your parents, contact our home care specialists today.

Want to know more about your hospice or home care options? Minute Women can help!

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