What Is Hospice?

The following is an excerpt from our livestream with Gabby Jimenez about life, death and hospice. Gabby is a hospice nurse, a hospice doula, and an author. To listen to the full podcast, click here.

What is Hospice?

I think people misunderstand Hospice and the benefits that come with it. So I personally want to make sure that the education is out there, so you know how much is available to you.

Hospice is a service that is covered under the Medicare benefit and it is usually something that someone will start when they’ve been given a terminal diagnosis with six months or less to live.

It’s important that you know that Hospice is not a diagnosis. Basic Hospice is a plan of care for the diagnosis. This means that it is a group of team members who come together to collaboratively help the person who is dying and also the people who are saying goodbye. You’ve got a team that works together to manage symptoms, to answer questions, to offer resources and just a myriad of different things.

When you’re given a terminal diagnosis, everything just seems so uncertain and there are curiosity and fears. The Hospice team comes together to try to reduce the fear, to help educate you and to support you in such a way that you feel a little bit more prepared and less alone.

The Hospice Team

The Hospice team itself consists of a medical doctor, a nurse, a social worker, a spiritual chaplain, a home health aide and a volunteer. Most of these you will see once a week on different days and that schedule will be determined from what works best for you.

We will collaboratively come together to make sure that symptoms are managed and that questions are answered. The team is beautiful in the way that we will communicate – not just with the person laying in the bed – but with the people at the bedside as well, because there are so many questions.

  • The Doctor – You’ll probably only see the doctor once in a while. You may not see them at all sometimes, but depending on your symptom needs, you may see them more often.
  • The Nurse – Your nurse is your case manager. That’s your main point of contact. You’ll see this nurse once a week, but if there’s a lot of symptoms to be managed, you’ll see this person more often.
  • The Social Worker – The one I want you to understand the most is social work. The social worker is there for emotional support. Hospice does not provide caregivers, but your social worker can help find caregivers that are in your area and within your budget. Your social worker can also help you find free services, depending on what you’re eligible for. Your social worker can also write letters for family members that may need to miss school or work to help provide care during this time. Your social worker can also help with transferring a body from one state to another if needed. Your social worker can also help with funeral plans. These are all things that happen at the end of life that the social worker can help with.
  • The Home Health Aide – This aide isn’t a caregiver, but they do come to do the bathing and to help in the shower.
  • Spiritual Care – Spiritual care is based on what your needs are. When you’re given this diagnosis, the chaplain does not necessarily come from a religious standpoint, although most do. There’s a heightened curiosity that happens at this time, especially to those who do not have a strong faith. So it’s important to know that if you don’t have a strong faith practice, but you have some spiritual questions or you want to know more or understand more about what happens at the end of life, the chaplain can help with that.
  • Supplies & Medication – Hospice also covers supplies at no extra charge for you. So if you need a hospital bed or a bedside table, or a commode or a wheelchair or wound care supplies or incontinent supplies, these supplies are covered under the Hospice Medicare benefit. We also provide medications that are used and taken relative to the diagnosis and the disease process. It’s important to know that all you have to do is let them know what you need and they can work that out for you.

The Hospice Team really does come together to meet you where you are, not where we want you to be. We help guide and support you on the Hospice journey – whatever that may look like for you.