What is Hospice?

A caring, compassionate, supportive way to care for people living with a life-limiting illness. A combination of a healthcare program and services designed to meet the special needs of patients and their loved ones. Hospice is skilled in addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering of patients and families who have chosen to forego curative treatment. We provide progressive comfort care.

When is the right time to ask about hospice?

Before you or a loved one need it. Now is the best time to learn about hospice, ask questions and understand what to expect from hospice services once they begin. End-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, but by having these discussions in advance, neither you nor your loved ones will be forced into uncomfortable situations. You can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones early on.

When should you consider hospice?

When a diagnosis of an incurable life-limiting illness with a prognosis of six months or less is expected if no curative measures are taken.

Should you wait for your physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should you raise it first?

Feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with your physician, other health care professionals, clergy or friends.

How can you get hospice care?

Your physician can refer you. They must certify that you have six months or less to live if your disease or condition continues at a standard pace.

What if you live longer than six months?

You will continue receiving our hospice care even after the initial six months as long as the attending physician recertifies that you meet the medical criteria for the terminal diagnosis.

Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?

Certainly, if your condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, you can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about your daily life. Should you later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.

How does hospice ‘manage pain?

By addressing our patients’ entire needs. We believe that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain. Our hospice physicians and nurses are able to address all pain by staying up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief in order to provide the best results for each patient.

In addition, physical and occupational therapists can assist our patients to be as mobile and self sufficient as they wish. Through our holistic approach and traditional palliative care options our interdisciplinary team will aim to provide relief, comfort and strength in order to carry on with daily life for as long as possible. Finally, various counselors, including clergy, are available to assist our patients, family members and caregivers.

Doesn’t pain control medications make people feel doped up?

When morphine and other pain control medications are administered properly for medical reasons, patients find much-needed relief without getting “high” or craving drugs. The result is that hospice patients remain more alert and active because they are not exhausted by uncontrolled symptoms.

Will hospice medications decrease your life expectancy?

No. The hospice philosophy is to neither prolong life nor hasten or postpone death but to provide medications and other treatments that will keep patients as comfortable and lucid as possible. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of child birth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.

Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?

Usually not. It is the goal of hospice to have the patient as pain free and alert as possible. By constantly consulting with the patient, hospices have been very successful in reaching this goal.

Will someone from hospice be here all the time?

No. Hospice does not provide “routine” around-the-clock care. Our hospice team will teach family members, loved ones and caregivers how to care for the patient on a regular basis.

How are the services paid for?

Medicare, Medi-Cal and all commercial HMO insurance plans (in California) provide hospice care for people who met the eligibility requirements. To be sure of coverage, we recommend that families check with their employer’s health insurance provider or contact your agent in regards to coverage of your personal policy. In most cases, there is no direct cost to patients or their families.

If you’re covered by Medicare, will there be any additional expenses to be paid?

No, there are no additional costs. The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the full scope of services and supplies that are related to the hospice diagnosis. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a comprehensive Web site that serves as an all-inclusive resource on Medicare and other related issues. The Ask Medicare site clearly explains what Medicare does and doesn’t cover.

If you’re receiving radiation, can you go on hospice?

If you’re receiving radiation treatment, we will wait until that course of treatment is completed before admitting you onto hospice. Coverage does not allow aggressive treatment options while receiving the Hospice Benefit.

Where do you get Hospice?

Hospice goes wherever you go. We provide care wherever you call home; this may be in a nursing home, an assisted or independent living residence, or in the traditional home setting. Santa Maria Hospice brings our interdisciplinary team of professionals to you.

How does the Admission Process work?

Admitting a patient to the hospice program is a simple process for the attending physician, discharge planner or social worker. Just call the hospice and a nurse will visit the patient and family at home or in the hospital. Information about the program will be presented. If the patient desires hospice care, the nurse makes the arrangements.

Where do you start?

By calling us at 805-361-0264. We are here to answer any questions you may have.