Compassionate, patient-directed care

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Healthcare provider listening to senior woman's heart.

Support for patients and families

We understand that this may be a difficult time for patients and families. There are many services, programs, and resources that can enhance quality and meaning to the last moments of life.

Common questions

What is hospice?
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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.

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

When should the conversation about hospice begin?
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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.

Where is hospice care provided?
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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. We serve the West Michigan area, including the counties of Kent, Ottawa, Montcalm, Ionia, Allegan and Barry.

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

Dealing with grief

Celebrating the upcoming holidays can be a very difficult time for people who have experienced the death of a loved one. Simin Beg, MD, gives some tips for coping with grief during the holidays.

In the first few months after a death
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After the hectic period surrounding the funeral, you may begin to experience a variety of physical and emotional changes. It can be helpful to know what these are and that these changes can be a normal response to grief. You may:

  • Suffer physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea or diarrhea
  • Have chest pains, shortness of breath or tightening in the throat
  • Experience total body fatigue or changes in your sleep patterns
  • Overeat or eat too little
  • Find yourself in tears at unexpected times
  • Face an array of unexpected emotions such as feeling numb or almost emotionally frozen
  • Find that your loss seems unreal
  • Feel deep sadness, anger, anxiety or loneliness
  • Feel you are going crazy or feel relieved

You may be uncomfortable with some of these feelings. During these times, it is important to allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t be afraid to cry or ask for support. Talking with others can help you cope during this difficult time.

Four or more months after a death
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This may be a very challenging time. Like many grieving people, you may feel worse than you did right after the death. There are many reasons for this; the company has gone home; the phone calls and sympathy cards have decreased or stopped coming. Your numbness is wearing off and you begin to realize what your loss is going to mean for you.

Meanwhile, your family and friends may not understand the length of time the grieving process takes. You may feel pressure from them to return to “normal.” Because this time of grieving can leave you feeling tired and distracted, you may find that you are accident-prone. Be especially careful when driving. You also may find that you are inclined to avoid your feelings by being busy or to self-medicate. Be careful that you don’t attempt to drown your pain in work, food, spending sprees, drugs or alcohol.

Instead, reach out for the support of others— family members, friends, a spiritual leader or counselor. You need them to validate both your pain and your sanity. You need them to praise your accomplishments, however small. Remember that the journey of grieving is healthier when shared with others.

Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries
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Even if you are not consciously keeping track, special dates may present challenges to you— especially during the first year or two. These events may remind you of the times you spent together and remind you of your loss. Even if you have been doing well by the end of the first year, you may be surprised about how intensely the one-year anniversary of death affects you.

After two ore more years
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No matter how long it’s been since your loss, your heart will always carry grief. Most grieving people agree that it takes at least two years to establish new routines, create a different lifestyle and realize a new identity.

The employees at Spectrum Health Hospice hope this information is helpful as you move through this difficult time. If you have questions or concerns you may contact us any time.

Helpful resources

Spectrum Health does not control or endorse the information on these sites, nor do these sites endorse the information contained here.

Caring Connections: A service of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. This site assists patients and families with end-of-life decision making.

Dying Well: Defining Wellness Through the End of Life Resources for people facing life-limiting illness, as well as for their families and caregivers. Includes articles and resources, Ira Byock's popular book and discussion guide, and a grief series.

Grand Rapids End of Life Coalition: The mission of the Greater Grand Rapids End of Life Coalition is to increase awareness and create opportunities for improving end of life care within the greater Grand Rapids community.

Hospice Foundation of America: Nonprofit organization offers books, videos, brochures, a newsletter about hospice and living with grief, and a Guide to Recalling and Telling Your Life Story.

Hospice Net: Offers comprehensive articles about many end-of-life issues. Provides information and support for patients, families and caregivers.

National Association for Home Care: Trade organization representing home care agencies, hospices and home care aide organizations. Offers information on how to choose a home care provider, hospice care, rights of patients and more.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: Information about hospice, how to select a hospice care program, communicating end-of-life wishes, Medicare and more. Call the Helpline at 800.658.8898 or view the Web site to find a hospice program close to you. The Web site has full text of Consumer Guide to Selecting a Hospice Program, Hospice Care and the Medicare Hospice Benefit, and Communicating Your End of Life Wishes.

Support resources for families and caregivers
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Alzheimer's Society: The Alzheimer's Association is the only national voluntary health organization dedicated to researching the prevention, cures and treatments of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, and providing support and assistance to those affected by the disease and their families.

Caregiver Resource Network: The Caregiver Resource Network is a collaboration of West Michigan organizations dedicated to providing for the needs and welfare of family and professional caregivers within the community.

GriefNet: GriefNet is an Internet community of persons dealing with grief, death and major loss. Several e-mail support groups dealing with assorted grief issues are offered.

Information and resources for cancer patients
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American Cancer Society: Information and services covering all forms of cancer. Includes diagnosis and treatment information and free educational materials on a wide variety of topics relating to cancer.

Cancer Care, Inc.: Offers emotional support, information, practical help and comprehensive resource information.

Gilda's Club: Gilda's Club offers free social and emotional support to men, women and children with cancer-plus support to their family and friends.

The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service: One of the best resources available for cancer patients, this government organization provides the toll-free Cancer Information Service in English and Spanish for questions about any type of cancer (1.800.4.CANCER) or to order publications about cancer and cancer issues.

Medicare Insurance Resources: Medicare Hotline 800.633.4227 Answers questions about Medicare benefits and coverage. Call 800.MEDICARE, or TTY/TDD call toll-free at 877.486.2048.

Elder care resources
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Area Agency on Aging: Established in April 1974, the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) exists to help older adults and persons with disabilities live in their community with independence and dignity.

Senior Meals on Wheels: 616.459.3111 The Senior Meals on Wheels Program provides a range of nutritional services to the elderly in our community that are not offered by any other agency in Kent County.

State Bar of Michigan Elder Law: This site provides information on advanced care planning and medical care planning in the event of a loss. Easy to navigate and provides free forms to download.

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