recent bulletin of the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home
pointed out that new research from Mt. Sinai has validated that hospice
care saves money for Medicare and improves the quality of care received
by Medicare beneficiaries. Researchers looked at the most common
hospice enrollment periods and found that in every instance, hospice
patients had significantly lower rates of hospital and intensive care
use, hospital readmissions, and in-hospital death when compared to
non-hospice patients with a similar illness.
Susan Adams, RN, BSN, PhD, Regional Vice President and
Administrator for Masonicare Home Health & Hospice, is not surprised
by the results.
“During my years in the field, I’ve seen hundreds of
instances where hospice care has not only improved the quality of life
of patients, but has given them the opportunity to live it optimally as
they near the end of their time here,” she said recently.
Here, Ms. Adams, with input from Doreen Brown-Wade, Hospice
Director for MHH, offers her thoughts on the study’s results and
explains how Masonicare’s Hospice team works every day to help patients
and their families deal with this most difficult time in their lives.
Can you explain how hospice care can actually save Medicare dollars?
Hospice care provided at the appropriate time significantly reduces
hospital and intensive care use by patients with a life-limiting
illness. It has been proven that with hospice care, there are less
hospital re-admissions and in-hospital deaths when those patients are
compared to matched
non-hospice patients. Not only does this improve quality of life, it
reduces the amount of money Medicare pays for end-of-life care.
Once someone has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, how soon should he or she consider receiving hospice care?
Patients can receive Palliative Care while still seeking on-going
treatment for a life-limiting illness. Earlier referrals for Palliative
Care provide earlier referrals to Hospice. Generally, patients should be
referred to hospice once the patient’s physician determines that he or
she has a life-limiting prognosis of six months or less.
Can you discuss the important role palliative care plays in the care of hospice patients?
Palliative care is a team approach similar to the hospice philosophy
of care. Having a patient on palliative care prior to hospice
introduces the team approach to care, thereby addressing all of the
patient’s and his or her family’s needs: medical, psychosocial, and
spiritual. This allows the patient and family to focus on those
activities that are important to them. Hospice focuses on living life as fully as possible, even as the end of life draws near.
How does Masonicare’s hospice team help hospice patients remain at
home – or in a facility they call home – rather than being admitted or
readmitted to a hospital for symptom and pain management?
Patient-centered “holistic care” focuses on not
treating a patient’s disease. Team members work towards the same goal –
providing comfort and avoiding painful testing and futile treatments
for patients. The team provides aggressive symptom management,
ensuring that pain and other symptoms that are distressing to the
patient and family are controlled by using expertise in the treatment of
people who are dying. We work with patients, families and facility
staff to provide education, teaching and support for the journey from
life to death.
How does the hospice team help patient’s families handle the stress and
the emotional roller coaster they’re on when dealing with a loved one’s
The hospice team provides emotional and spiritual support, with
members serving as good listeners who can help the patient and family
cope with the dying process. We offer caring hospice volunteers who
provide companionship, respite care, make phone calls, write letters and
offer other valuable services.
Do you think the results of this study will convince our
legislators and the healthcare community as a whole that hospice care
should be more readily available and encouraged for terminally-ill
Through firsthand experience, hospice professionals have seen that
the interdisciplinary team approach greatly improves quality of life for
patients and families facing life-limiting illness. We must increase
our efforts to educate the public and healthcare providers alike that
early enrollment in hospice not only helps patients and families, but
also reduces Medicare costs. It also ensures that patients’ care
preferences will be met earlier in the management of their disease.
To learn more about the outstanding hospice and palliative care services provided by Masonicare Home Health & Hospice, please call the Masonicare HelpLine at 888-679-9997 or visit www.masonicare.org.