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Hospice (cont.)

Respite Care

If the ill person is being cared for at home, hospice will provide nurses and home health aides to help provide care. The hospice will provide volunteers to read to the ill person and provide care while family members go out to do things that need to be done.

At times, the ill person could be admitted to an inpatient facility while the family takes a break from providing care. The family may wish to go on a vacation that the patient is no longer strong enough to participate in. Or the family may just need a few days in which they can get uninterrupted sleep at night. This is called respite care and can last up to five days. It's part of the hospice Medicare benefit.

Respite care can be provided through an inpatient hospice unit, a hospice house, a nursing home, or an acute care hospital that has dedicated hospice beds.

What Not to Expect

A hospice does not admit a person to an acute care hospital for intensive care. In fact, the concept of hospice is designed with the idea that most people don't want to die in an intensive care unit (ICU) with tubes and wires sticking out of various parts of their bodies.

  • The purpose of an ICU is to save the life of someone who has an illness or an injury that's curable.
  • The ICU is not set up to provide comfort measures, and doctors who frequently practice intensive care medicine often are not well versed in comfort measures.
  • Doctors who specialize in traditional medicine treat people with grave illness aggressively. Palliative care specialists can help the patient and doctors to determine when and if the patient's needs and wishes are being met. Sometimes, active aggressive care is no longer indicated, and hospice care is now more appropriate.
  • Hospice provides comfort measures in ways that most other doctors may never have learned about, but that care does not involve ICU treatment.
  • The interplay between active, cure-oriented patient care providers, palliative care providers, and hospice care providers is increasingly being recognized as being in most patients' best interests when the underlying diagnosis appears to be incurable.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/1/2016

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