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November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is recognized nationally as Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Facilities and organizations who provide these important services are reaching out to raise awareness of the high-quality services available for those families and individuals who cope with life-limiting illnesses and conditions.

These columns from Avera@Home Hospice offer expert insight on common questions that surround hospice care and how it can make a difference in the life of those who need it.

We hope you will consider including it in your content during November. Thank you.

Dispelling myths about hospice

There are certain words in health care that no one wants to hear. Hospice shouldn’t be one of them. That’s the point of view of Avera@Home’s Melissa Maranell, LSW who serves as a patient care coordinator for the program. She’s helped many families who face the challenges that come with the special care that is hospice.

“I’m often the first face they see after they hear that word hospice,” she said. “My goal is to dispel the misconceptions they may have about it, and to show them that it’s not a negative. It’s really a privilege to be the person who can guide a family on their hospice journey. Most find that it’s a positive experience — it is a journey, not a place. But there are many things about it that are unknown to families.” Maranell said those starting-point discussions — the “kitchen table conversations” as she calls them, are a place where the misconceptions can be modified. She offered these “myth versus fact” tips for any family that may need hospice care.

Myth: Hospice is a place.

Fact: Hospice is a specialized type of medical care that can be delivered in a person’s home, a nursing home or assisted living facility or at a hospice house. It’s the type of care that people need, more so than the location, that defines hospice. Most often, it is an added level of care that allows people who may be near the end of life to find physical, emotional and spiritual comfort. Hospice care takes pressure off family caregivers as well.

Myth: Hospice sounds good, but most people cannot afford it.

Fact: Hospice is a Medicare and insurance-covered service, and in cases where the care is delivered in the home, it’s covered at 100 percent. When a patient prefers placement in a facility, Avera hospice professionals realize there are many insurance and assistance programs, and they take pride in helping families who need hospice to evaluate their options.

“Our hospice team provides that extra layer of assistance to families. We can get them started with making calls and evaluating placement,” Maranell said. “Many times, 100 percent of care is covered, but families face room and board costs. We will navigate that process with the patient and family.”

Myth: Hospice is only for people with six months left — or less.

Fact: Patients may remain in a hospice program as long as they meet the medical condition requirements, so stays can range from a few days to a few years. The hospice team and the patient’s physician, along with the family, make this decision while following the regulations in Medicare.

“We do our best to get patients on hospice service early, that way they benefit from it sooner and as long as possible, which in turn helps the family, too,” Maranell said.

Myth: Only families that have had those tough conversations about passing away are ready for hospice help.

Fact: Hospice professionals like Maranell often facilitate conversations about the dying process, not only with people facing it, but their families as well.

“I often say that we pray for the best but we prepare for the worst,” she said. “My job is to open the discussion about how we can best take this journey together, with the promise of good care for patients and families. We’re there alongside the family each day, and having those intimate discussions is an important step. It’s a privilege being a part of it.”

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