Research and new treatments are giving hope to those suffering from malignant mesothelioma, but for most sufferers it is a terminal disease. For those who can no longer benefit from continuing treatment or who choose to let their disease take its course without trying extraordinary measures, hospice care is an option that ensures that the patient and family members don’t have to face the end alone.
Many people believe that hospice care refers solely to end-of-life care in a hospice facility, but that is only one aspect of the hospice model. Hospice services can be offered in a hospice center, a hospital, a skilled nursing facility, or at home. Usually, according to Hospice Net, 90% of a hospice patient’s time is spent at home.
Hospice care includes medical care, psychological counseling and spiritual support for both terminally ill patients and their families. These services are provided by a variety of health care professionals, clergy and volunteers.
Patients receive palliative care, or medical care which addresses pain and symptoms without trying to cure the disease. Hospice care does not speed up death nor does it delay it. It aims to keep a patient as comfortable and alert as possible, striving to help the patient face death with dignity and peace. Most hospice patients have a life expectancy of less than six months.
Medical insurance, Medicare and the Veterans Administration often cover certain hospice expenses, as does Medicaid in some states. Hospice care can help caregivers keep their loved ones at home or can be provided wherever the patient is located. You can find out about in-home programs and in-patient hospice care through your local hospital or social worker and through various clearinghouses for hospice care.
Hospice organizations you might contact include:
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- Hospice Association of America
- Hospice Education Institute
- American Cancer Society
- Hospice Net
- Hospice Foundation of America
- Volunteer Hospice Network
When a patient is cared for at home, hospices can provide doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers for the patient, and spiritual and other counselors for the patient and caregivers. Hospice services can also provide volunteers to run errands. Hospice care includes respite care for caregivers, that is, they can send someone to stay with the patient in order to give primary caregivers a chance to take a break. Hospices have staff available 24/7 to consult with family members by phone and to make night visits when necessary.
Most hospice programs, both in-home and in-patient, keep in touch with caregivers for at least a year after a patient dies. Most also offer community bereavement groups and support for those who have lost a family member or close friend, even when the person who died was not involved in hospice care.