South Florida Hospital News
Friday October 23, 2020
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January 2009 - Volume 5 - Issue 7
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Hospice Care Can Soothe Physical, Emotional and Financial Pains

When patients and their families are dealing with a terminal illness, the physical and emotional challenges are burden enough. But sometimes the financial stresses associated with serious illness are more than a family can bear. That is especially true today, with unemployment on the rise and the economy in decline.

With a timely and appropriate referral to hospice care, however, physicians and others involved in terminally ill patients’ care can help ease not only the physical or emotional stresses that patients and their families might be experiencing, but also any financial stresses they might have.

Not a luxury item

Contrary to popular belief, hospice care is not a luxury service available only to the wealthy or those who have private insurance. Hospice care is a Medicare benefit available to anyone with a prognosis of six months or less.

The often crippling financial burdens of a life-limiting illness can be lessened because the Medicare Hospice Benefit includes 100 percent coverage of physician services, nursing care, home medical equipment and medical supplies, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications related to the patient’s terminal illness. It also covers counseling, spiritual support and bereavement support for the patient’s loved ones. Patients and their families receive these benefits without any co-pays, deductibles, coverage limits or any other ancillary payments. Most states, including Florida, also provide similar coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries.

If a patient referred to VITAS does not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and does not have private insurance, he or she is not turned away because of an inability to pay. VITAS absorbs the cost of those patients’ care and provides them the same level of care as it does to all of its patients. In fact, VITAS’ genuine charity care company-wide averages more than 1 percent of its gross revenues, reportedly a higher percentage than the majority of other for-profit and non-profit U.S. hospice providers.

Beyond the basics

VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® provides a number of services that go well above and beyond basic hospice care, services that help to ease patients’ and families’ physical and emotional strains.

VITAS’ Telecare provides peace of mind to patients and their caregivers by giving them direct access to hospice clinicians if a problem occurs after hours or on weekends and holidays. VITAS Intensive Comfort CareSM (called Continuous Care by Medicare) is bedside care provided in crisis situations up to 24 hours a day. Intensive Comfort CareSM often allows patients to remain safely and comfortably at home, avoiding unnecessary—and costly—hospitalization.

Most hospice patients do prefer to receive their care in the comfort and familiarity of their own home—be that in a private residence, a nursing home or an assisted living facility. But if the patient needs care beyond what can be provided at home, VITAS has special arrangements with local hospitals and other facilities where patients may receive necessary and appropriate inpatient care and return home as soon as possible.

Ease of pain for everyone

Hospice is unique in that it provides care for both the patient and the patient’s loved ones. For example, all Medicare-certified hospice providers must provide an organized program of services to meet the bereavement needs of the family for at least one year after the beneficiary’s death. VITAS is no exception—offering bereavement support groups, memorial services, individual counseling and referrals, if needed.

VITAS’ growing ranks of volunteers also help family members. By providing patient care and companionship, VITAS volunteers offer respite to patients’ caregivers, giving them some time for respite—to relax or "get away," if necessary. And in many VITAS programs, volunteers sew Memory Bears—Teddy bears made for grieving family members from a favorite clothing item of the deceased. Experienced and specially trained volunteers also often help organize or even conduct caregiver support groups.

In sum, hospice care provides more than palliative and emotional care to terminally ill patients. It also provides—especially in times when money is tight—a welcome change from the co-pays, deductibles and coverage limits that can cause real hardship.

Donald Gaddy is Vice President of Market Development and Sales at VITAS Innovative Hospice Care®. For more information about VITAS Innovative Hospice Care®, call 1-800-93-VITAS.
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