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Questions About Hospice

Common Hospice Questions

What is hospice?

Hospice is comforting care and compassionate support for individuals who are experiencing a life-limiting illness and a terminal diagnosis. When a cure is no longer the focus, Spectrum Health Hospice gives patients’ choices on how to best control symptoms, enhance dignity and quality of life, and make the best life decisions. We can help patients, families and caregivers through difficult times and daily living by managing pain, providing comfort, and offering support and resources.

What makes Spectrum Health Hospice different?

Spectrum Health Hospice is the only hospital-based hospice program in the West Michigan area. Our program benefits from the resources available through Spectrum Health, a leading health care provider in West Michigan. Our hospice care can be provided in any setting. We care for patients in private homes, assisted living centers, long-term care facilities, hospitals and other locations. We work together with patients and families to provide care in the place they call home. We also do everything we can to eliminate the need for a transfer to another location unless it is the patient's choice.

Spectrum Health Hospice is available for patients and families 24 hours a day, year-round. Our on-call system is locally based and we respond quickly to ensure that the needs of our patients and families are met in a timely manner. We are a nonprofit organization that serves people of all faiths and backgrounds within our service area and will care for patients and families, regardless of their ability to pay.

We approach care as a team and are proud of our experienced clinicians and extensive volunteer program. We also provide helpful services such as massage, art expression, and music therapy.

Who qualifies for hospice care? Is it covered by insurance?

Most people with a life-limiting illness that is progressive will qualify for hospice services. Many insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid, offer 100 percent coverage for hospice care at no cost to the patient and family. Your physician and hospice team can help determine if you are eligible for hospice services. Our nurses are available to meet with you and your family members or caregivers for a free, informational visit at a time that is convenient for you.

Where is hospice care provided?

We serve the West Michigan area, including the counties of Kent, Ottawa, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ionia, Allegan and Barry. Spectrum Health Hospice meets your needs wherever you live. We provide care and support whether you are in a private home, long term care facility, assisted living residence, an adult foster care home, and in some cases, the hospital. 

What services are provided by the hospice team?

The goal of hospice care is to provide complete physical, emotional and spiritual comfort for the patient. We also provide education and support for the caregivers and enhanced quality of life for all involved. Our objective is that each day, our patients feel good enough to enjoy what really matters to them. We also work to ensure that caregivers feel equipped and prepared to provide the best care possible.

When should the conversation about hospice begin?

Many times patients and families know the patient's condition is deteriorating, yet no one wants to be the first to discuss hospice. Hospice can often be helpful much earlier than one might think. Talking about the kind of choices patients may want is helpful at any stage of an illness. Even if just some basic information is needed, call us to send out one of our specialists to discuss hospice care with you and your caregivers. Information on hospice can be helpful in making decisions and planning for the future.

Doesn't signing on to hospice mean giving up hope?

The goal of hospice care is optimal symptom control and physical comfort, which allows patients to enjoy what really matters most to them and brings quality to each day. Some studies have shown that a person can live even longer with adequate support and the comfort of this specialized care.

One of the core values held by our hospice team is the value of hope - hope for comfort that endures, for meaning in difficult times, for reconciliation and dignity and for making the most of each precious day.

What are some signs that a person may be ready for hospice?

The following may be signs that an individual could be ready for hospice care:
• Treatment for a cure is no longer being tolerated or recommended
• An increase in pain, nausea, breathing distress and other symptoms are decreasing quality of life
• An individual is tired of frequent hospitalizations and trips to the ER and wants to remain home and be comfortable
• Increased weakness, sleeping more, and a decrease in physical activity are noticed by caregivers and family members
• A person's level of functioning declines despite efforts to strengthen and rehabilitate

What are some signs that my family could benefit from hospice care?

Your family might benefit from hospice care if:
• Caregivers are physically and emotionally worn out from providing care and feel more help is needed
• Decisions regarding your loved one's care must be made and you are unsure about how to make them, or there are conflicts within your family regarding these decisions
• You are uncertain about how to best care for your family member and are concerned about what lies ahead

What if I want to be the caretaker?

Your hospice team can support you in a number of ways. We will show you how to administer care, offer assistance and resources to help you, and will even give you a much deserved break now and then when you need it. With the support of the hospice team, patients and families are in control and decide what care plans are best for them.

How does the referral process work?

Patients can be referred to Spectrum Health Hospice by anyone - you, a family member, a staff member from a facility, or a physician. Information on hospice can be provided to you at any time. A physician has to determine that the diagnosis fits the federal mandates and insurance guidelines for hospice care to be delivered. Upon receiving the initial call, we will verify with the patient's physician that hospice care may be appropriate. Once the physician's order is received, one of our specialized admission nurses performs an assessment, the patient signs a consent form, and hospice care begins.

I'm not sure what a living will is and whether we need one. Can you help?

Our social workers are well-educated and experienced in many different legal matters such as living wills, "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) orders, medical durable power of attorney (MDPOA) and guardianship. We can facilitate conversations about end of life decisions with families and patients to ensure that one's wishes are well-known and that family and friends can help support the decisions that are made. We can also provide direction to get those wishes formalized and organized in one location for convenience and clarity.

What happens after a patient's death?

For anyone experiencing a loss, grief support is available for up to 13 months following the death of a loved one. We offer support groups, newsletters and educational information to help people move through grief in a healthy way. We offer support, encouragement and hope.