Hospice: Care Instructions

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Hospice care provides medical treatment to relieve symptoms at the end of life. The goal is to keep you comfortable, not to try to cure you. Hospice care does not speed up or lengthen dying. It focuses on easing pain and other symptoms. Hospice caregivers want to enhance your quality of life.

Hospice care also offers emotional help and spiritual support when you are dying. It also helps family members care for someone who is dying.

Hospice care can help you review your life, say important things to family and friends, and explore spiritual issues. Hospice also helps your family and friends grieve.

You can use hospice care if your illness cannot be cured and doctors believe you have no more than 6 months to live. You do not need to be confined to a bed or in a hospital to benefit from this type of care.

The hospice team includes doctors, nurses, counselors, therapists, social workers, pastors, home health aides, and trained volunteers. You can get care in your own home or in a hospice center. Some hospice workers also go to nursing homes or hospitals.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Prepare a list of advance directives. These are instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.
  • Find out if your health insurance covers hospice care.
  • Find hospice programs in your area. People who can help include your doctor, your state health department, and your insurance company.
  • Decide what kinds of hospice services you want. It helps to know what you want before you enter a hospice program.
  • Think about some questions when preparing for hospice care.
    • Who do you want to make decisions about your medical care if you are not able to? Many people choose their partner, child, or friend.
    • What are you most afraid of that might happen? You might be afraid of having pain or losing your independence. Let your hospice team know your fears. The team can help you.
    • Where would you prefer to die? Choices include your home, a hospital, or a nursing home.
    • Do you want to donate organs when you die? Make sure that your family clearly understands this.
    • Do you want any religious rites or practices to be done before you die? Let your hospice team know what you want.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.