What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a bit of a mystery to many, but it is an underused – and undervalued – part of our healthcare system. It is not a place where people go, rather, it is a service that combines a multitude of different forms of care. In the case of senior hospice care, the overarching goal of hospice is to provide the highest level of comfort, basic medical care, and support as a loved one passes from life into death, allowing him/her to live their remaining days with as much dignity as possible.

In this blog, we will discuss some of the common questions and concerns surrounding hospice care for seniors.

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What qualifies a senior for hospice care and how is it paid for?

In most cases, a doctor must certify that a patient has an end-of-life diagnosis and the prognosis is usually 6-months or less. When patients meet the qualifying criteria, hospice is covered by Medicare, Medi-cal, and most private health insurance policies. Once hospice care begins, the services run indefinitely, or until a doctor no longer feels the situation is terminal. If you or a loved one is considering enrolling in a hospice care program, contact your insurance providers to discuss the financial details so there are no surprises.

Please note: Hospice does not provide full-time care. It does provide daily check-ins from a medical professional and access to 24/7 hotlines. However, the bulk of the caregiving is expected to come from a spouse, family members or professional caregivers. In some cases, hospice programs will not enroll a patient without proof of full-time care provision.

Isn’t hospice care a death sentence, or a form of giving up?

No and no. Firstly, hospice care isn’t the cause of death. The conditions leading up to the end of one’s life can be very simple or very complex, ranging from an acute illness or a slow decline from Alzheimer’s disease. There are a multitude of treatments, medications, procedures and machines that can prolong an individual’s life, but there comes a point where the individual and/or family members must determine that the quality of life is now more valuable than the number of days remaining.

As soon as this point is reached, hospice is a wonderful option because it alleviates much of the stress of the clinical medical world, and prioritizes the comfort and desires of the patient. Although hospice usually is considered a form of palliative (end of life) care, there are situations where patients improve so much with hospice care that they are removed from hospice. However, this is less common in the case of senior hospice care.

Is hospice care always provided at home?

Hospice care is most commonly provided at home, as this is usually the patient’s preferred place to be. Seniors usually want to be surrounded by the ones they love, in the home they know,  with their favorite belongings, scenery and their beloved pets. However, senior hospice care can also be provided in a nursing home, retirement community, or the hospital.

What types of services does hospice provide?

Hospice care is provided by a team of professionals including:

  • Your primary physicians and medical specialists
  • Family, friends, and volunteer caregivers
  • Professional caregivers
  • Social worker
  • Spiritual/religious counsel
  • Bereavement counselors
  • Palliative care specialists
  • Physical therapists

Together, they form a strong support network for both the patient and the patient’s immediate family.

One of the largest complaints we hear from seniors and their families is that they didn’t enroll in hospice care soon enough. Contact HomeAide Home Care, Inc. to learn more about our home care services.

The Benefits of Geriatric Massage

Who doesn’t love a massage? It’s a way to step out of the world-as-we-know-it, free the mind of its ceaseless chatter, and enjoy the soothing and pleasurable feeling of having your tension erased from your physical body. However, massage is not just about the general satisfaction of physical pleasure, studies have shown that there are significant medical and health benefits to having a massage on a regular basis. This is especially true for the senior population.

Geriatric massage is a special niche, designed to provide a relaxing therapeutic treatment that has residual health benefits specifically targeting the physical and emotional ailments that can plague seniors.

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What is geriatric massage?

The principles of geriatric massage – laying down and having a trained masseuse use lotion or oils to manipulate the muscles, connective tissues, and even the skeleton itself – are the same as traditional massage therapy. However, geriatric massage usually involves a lighter touch, to be sensitive to the thin skin and physical sensitivities that often increase with age.

If the client is wheelchair bound, or finds the massage chair uncomfortable, a geriatric massage can be performed while the patient is seated. Geriatric massage often spends a longer time on the hands and feet, in order to increase circulation, but can be adapted to meet the specific needs of the client. This may also include reflexology techniques, which stimulates specific pressure points on the hands and feet that coordinate to specific parts of the body. Reflexology has also been shown to provide natural pain relief.

What are some of the benefits of geriatric massage?

Similar to Yoga and other healing practices that focus on clearing the mind, relaxing the body, and gentle motion, massage has been shown to alleviate depression, improve circulation, and reduce pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. Also, it can just plain feel good to be touched. Consider that many seniors, especially those whose spouses have died or whose loved ones live far away are without the regular comfort of human touch, hugs, or kisses that most of us enjoy on a semi-daily basis.

Massage enhances emotional well-being. At the bio-chemical level, massage stimulates the release of multiple “feel good” hormones, such as adrenaline and oxytocin. This is one of the reasons many people feel a sense of relaxed euphoria for a day or two following their massage. These chemicals help to relieve anxiety and depression. In fact, massage has been shown to help bereaved relatives cope with their grief

Improved circulation. This is a biggie. Our heart pumps blood for a reason – to feed our bodies cells with much needed oxygen, water, and nutrients. It is also required to eliminate the CO2 and toxins out of our cells and out of the body. When the circulatory system is ailing, the rest of the body is too. Massage can be especially helpful for seniors who have diabetes, certain heart conditions, or whose mobility limitations prevent them from being able to move comfortably or safely; all of these conditions contribute to poor circulation, which can snowball into other undesirable side effects.

Reduced pain and stiffness. It’s hard to find a senior citizen that doesn’t suffer from some amount of pain or stiffness. The same chemicals mentioned above, adrenaline, oxytocin and other “feel good” hormones also help to combat pain. As your lymph system is stimulated, inflammation will begin to decrease, which helps the joints move more comfortably.

So go ahead, treat yourself to a geriatric massage. You might even find it’s partially or fully covered by your healthcare insurance.

Home is the Best Place to Be

For people with advanced cancer, dying at home rather than the hospital results in higher quality-of-life scores at the end of life, and may be easier on the patients’ caregivers as well.

See this article from today’s Bloomberg BusinesWeek