The last stages of a terminal illness can be very difficult for patients, as well as their families and caregivers. Hospice is a special type of care that seeks to make this time easier. At Allina Health, hospice care, also known as comfort care, treats the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and focuses on comfort and having the highest quality of life possible.
What if the focus during one's final days was on living?
"I always thought hospice was a place you go for your final days ... I learned that I can stay at home as I wish and spend priceless time with my family and friends. My expert care team from Allina Health Hospice keeps my symptoms under control and I feel well enough to keep doing the things I enjoy during these months, surrounded by the people I love."
Hospice care at Allina Health
Hospice is available to patients whose primary care providers believe they have six months or less to live.
The decision to seek hospice care is not an easy one. The patient and family can talk with the hospice team about the care and services available and determine whether the patient would benefit from receiving this care. The hospice team is available at any time during a patient's life-limiting illness to discuss the appropriateness of this care. When the patient is ready to focus on symptom control and pain management or comfort care, hospice is appropriate.
Allina Health Hospice is available to anyone living in our service area, which includes 33 Minnesota counties and three Wisconsin counties. While visits from the hospice team are intermittent, based on a schedule that is planned with the patient and family, hospice nurses are available on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.
What if end-of-life care was for family as well as patient?
"One of the toughest days of my life was when I learned my husband, Walt, had only a few months left to live ... his doctor recommended we get help from Allina Health Hospice, and that really changed things ... hospice has been here for me, too."
Hospice care team and care plan
At Allina Health, every hospice patient and family has a dedicated hospice care team. This supports strong relationships between the patient, family and hospice team.
Our hospice team will work with the primary care provider, patient and family to set up a care plan that honors the patient's needs, goals, values and wishes. This plan describes who will visit, how often they will visit and what they will do. The plan will also determine the need for medicines, medical equipment and anything else that may be needed. The purpose of the plan of care is to focus on comfort, not to find a cure, and serves as a guide for patients and their families – to help make the most of their remaining time together.
Components of hospice care
Care coordination can help determine what type of care is needed at each stage of illness. Care coordinators are available to help determine this and connect you with the resources to get that care.
Personal care may include bathing, shaving, dressing changes, linen changes and household services to keep a safe and clean living space. Hospice home health aides are trained and certified to help care for the patient at home.
Symptom management (comfort care) treats the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient while focusing on comfort and having the highest quality of life possible. The nurse case manager provides pain and symptom management. Your nurse case manager is a registered nurse (RN) and may also be a certified hospice and palliative care specialist.
Companionship and support is available from trained hospice volunteers. A volunteer coordinator on the hospice team will talk with the patient or family about how a volunteer might help, which may include visiting patients for socialization, providing respite to give a caregiver (a break from caregiving responsibilities), doing light housework or preparing meals.
Spiritual care is available and tailored to meet the patient's personal and spiritual points of view, regardless of faith, religion or cultural background. The chaplain can provide support by listening to the patient's life stories and experiences and talking about any spiritual concerns the patient may have. The chaplain also provides guidance and explores the role of spirituality in illness, suffering and healing. Together, the chaplain and the patient's spiritual leader make sure the patient is getting the highest quality of spiritual care.
Grief counseling is available for 13 months after a patient's passing. Family members will receive information about grief counselors at Allina Health Hospice by mail after the death of their loved one. Some of the resources available include booklets and bibliographies, referral lists for local support groups, phone counselors, volunteer grief support visitors and grief counselors.
Community resources can be recommended through your social worker. Resources include patient counseling, family or caregiver counseling, financial and legal information (such as power of attorney, Family and Medical Leave Act, money management or social security application), discharge planning, children's support and patient and family advocacy.
Other therapies, such as physical, music and massage therapy, are available on a limited basis. These therapies treat the patient's symptoms and make the patient more comfortable. Your case manager can determine the availability of these therapies based on your plan of care.
Levels of hospice care
Home-based hospice care
Home-based hospice care might take place in the home or other places of residence, such as a nursing facility. There are two types of home-based hospice care:
- Routine hospice care includes regular visits by members of the care team.
- Continuous hospice care is provided during short periods of crisis (usually instead of hospitalization) when the patient needs continuous care to manage his or her pain and symptoms. This level of care is provided only as necessary to maintain the terminally ill patient at home and is primarily nursing care.
Inpatient hospice care
- General inpatient care is provided to manage the patient's pain and symptoms when this isn’t possible anymore at home. This might take place in a Medicare- or Medicaid-certified hospice inpatient facility, hospital, skilled nursing facility or residential hospice.
- Respite care is short-term care provided when the caregiver needs a break from his or her responsibilities of care. Respite care may be provided on an occasional basis, usually for a three- to five-day time period.
- Residential hospice care is provided in a facility designed to be as homelike as possible with personalized care provided 24 hours a day. When providing care at home is no longer possible, residential hospice care is a fitting alternative. Room and board expenses are separate from hospice care and generally paid by patients or their families.
We honor veterans
Allina Health Hospice is proud to be a Level 4 participant in the We Honor Veterans program. Our staff understands the unique needs of veterans and are prepared to meet the specific challenges that veterans and their families may face at the end of life.
Payment information for hospice care
Hospice care is covered by most insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers. Private pay options are also available. Our admission staff can help evaluate your coverage by calling 651-635-9173 or 1-800-261-0879.
Our business office is available to answer questions about your hospice bill when you call 612-262-1779. For your convenience we also offer an online bill pay option.
Myths and facts about hospice
Myth: Hospice means giving up.
Truth: Hospice is not about giving up. It’s about taking control and living well for the last days of life. It allows patients to live their final days in the comfort and familiarity of their home surrounded by family and friends.
Myth: Hospice helps people die.
Truth: Hospice keeps the patient comfortable and not suffering during their final days. Only medicines and actions to make the patient more comfortable are used or added. Death is not hurried or delayed. Hospice is about living well during the final days of life.
Myth: Only people with severe pain need hospice care.
Truth: The hospice team treats the unique physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient, and focuses on comfort and having the highest quality of life possible. This is known as comfort care.
Myth: Hospice is only for patients with cancer.
Truth: Hospice is available to any person with a terminal illness when his or her primary care provider believes the person has six months or less to live.
Myth: Hospice is expensive.
Truth: Hospice is available for anyone. In fact, hospice can cost less than hospital or nursing home care. Generally, hospice services are reimbursable expenses under Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans.
Myth: Reimbursement for hospice care is limited to six months.
Truth: Under federal law, the hospice benefit does not have a time limit.