Health Matters: Hospice Care: Comfort and Compassion

Hospice care is considered when there are no other options for treatment. For patients who are no longer seeking intervention or curative treatment, hospice can be a difficult subject to approach. It need not be that way.

When it comes to end-of-life care, the purpose of hospice is to provide comfort for the remaining time a patient has left with their family.

Elizabeth “Dar” Thornsbury is the Director of Patient Care Services at Ridgecrest Home Health and Hospice. She describes hospice care as a “plan of care for the purpose of keeping the patient as comfortable as possible,” while providing quality of life support to the patient’s family members and helping them cope with this transition. As she puts it, “It’s a hard decision. This is a very personal decision, not only for the patient, but for the family.”

Navigating the Difficult Decision

It is often painful for the family of a terminally ill patient to accept that it may be time to discontinue curative care, shifting the focus to providing comfort for the remaining time their loved one has. For patients with a six-month prognosis, hospice care enables them to spend quality time with their family, rather than running to doctor’s appointments and the hospital.

“The big key for us is educating the patient and the family so they can understand they’ll benefit from the hospice services,” notes Thornsbury. This means explaining the support and resources provided by hospice services.

Although coverage may vary, most health insurance plans will cover the expenses related to hospice care. Absent that, other payment options exist. For example, Ridgecrest accepts Medicare, Medi-Cal, and Tricare, as well as private insurance.

A Team Effort

The Ridgecrest Hospice Care Team comes to the patient’s home. The team consists of a Registered Nurse, a Licensed Practical Nurse, and a Certified Home Health Aide operating under the direction of the patient’s physician. A medication regimen is put in place to manage pain and symptoms at a heightened level. The Certified Home Health Aide assists with personal care such as bathing.

Ridgecrest also provides a spiritual counselor and a medical social worker. The medical social worker assists with making end-of-life arrangements or reviews the patient’s insurance with them to see if there are other resources they need.

The patient and family members must supply someone in the home 24 hours a day to help administer care for the patient. There are volunteers who will sit with the patient, so that a family member can tend to other needed errands outside the home. Ridgecrest also offers respite care, where they take the patient out of the home and to a skilled nursing facility. This type of care allows the family a break.

The Care Continues

Care doesn’t end when the loved one passes. Ridgecrest offers a bereavement program for up to thirteen months. “Many of these caregivers, especially close family members, are at that bedside 24 hours a day. It becomes their life, and when the patient passes, there’s a huge gap,” says Thornsbury. “We have a wonderful program for that.”

While end-of-life transitions can be heartbreaking, hospice care is a positive experience for the patients and their families during this difficult time.

Elizabeth**To listen to an interview with Elizabeth “Dar” Thornsbury, Director of Patient Care Services at Ridgecrest Home Health and Hospice, follow this link: https://radiomd.com/ridgecrest/item/38625