What happens to people living in assisted living if they become ill and decide to use the services of hospice? Hospice services are an option for people who are terminally ill, typically with a prognosis of 6 months or less. That does not mean the person will or must die in 6 months. It means that the illness they have and where they are at with it has a prognosis of 6 months or less. What many people do not know is that hospice is not for people who have a few weeks left. It really is best used as early as possible. The services they provide can actually help prolong life and make one’s remaining time much more comfortable and supportive for both the person suffering and their family.
My mom is suffering from heart failure after severe aortic stenosis for many years. She has been on hospice for several months and she has received some of the most amazing support and comfort care from the hospice staff even though she is still living in an assisted living facility. Hospice services are an extra service someone can have if they qualify, and it is paid for by Medicare. It is different than the care someone may be receiving in an assisted living environment. For example, at her AL (assisted living) facility, my mom has someone who takes care of her daily living skills like bathing and eating as well as her medications etc. Under hospice care, my mom has a nurse come in twice a week to check her vitals, see what she might need, manage her pain and talk with her. The hospice services are additional support services. They also tell the AL nurses what to continue doing to continue the care hospice is prescribing. Those AL nurses are already caring for her so they are just getting more direction from mom’s hospice nurse about how to continue making her comfortable as her needs change. They also have another person checking on my mom which should actually make them feel supported as they have many patients to care for each day.
Hospice has provided massage therapy once a week for her back pain and relaxation, a Chaplin, a social worker, and an aide to come provide a shower or various other tasks if needed. All of this, along with a nurse who checks in to provide medication, pain management, and check on supplies that may be needed that are also covered by hospice/Medicare. Things like wipes, incontinence products, lotions, soap etc are also covered. They also provide an incredible amount of emotional support which can help prolong life. People who go on hospice early in their terminal diagnosis often live longer due to this support.
One disappointment we have experienced since mom went on hospice is a lack of support from the assisted living facility to work with the hospice company in a supportive manner. It seems to be a bit of a battle where the AL staff feels that the hospice people should handle everything now that they come into the picture and that they should no longer have to do as much for the resident. This is completely false and makes no sense since we still privately pay for care services for my mom. They should still be happening the same as they were before.
The addition of extra eyes and support should be a positive thing that is supported by the AL facility. Any time you have multiple people caring for ill people it is positive as it prevents less errors and neglect of residents. The nurses at the AL facility feel that the hospice people should be handling any concerns I have and because of this my mom's care is not what is should be. Instead this seems to make the AL nurse staff frustrated and not in control of things which are effecting her care. Make sure that if you decide to use hospice that your facility supports it and understands how to work WITH them and not against them. Some of the facilities have a preferred hospice company they work with and prefer you use but do not let them persuade you into that unless you are comfortable with that hospice company. You have many hospice companies to choose from and many are good and many are not. If facilities do not work together your loved one will suffer so always ask questions to make sure you understand how things are going to be handled.