Frequently Asked Questions - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Frequently Asked Questions

What is hospice care?
Hospice is a philosophy of care. It treats the person rather than the disease and focuses on quality of life. It surrounds the patient and family with a team consisting of professionals who not only address physical distress, but emotional and spiritual issues as well. Hospice care is patient-centered because the needs of the patient and family drive the activities of the hospice care team.


Can the hospice program still manage my care or that of my family member if I need to go to the hospital?
Hospice of Natchitoches partners with several hospitals throughout the area in managing the inpatient hospice units in those facilities. Under hospice care, the patient may be hospitalized to control symptoms or to provide respite care for the family if needed.


Do I have to give up my regular physician if I choose hospice care?
Although Hospice of Natchitoches maintains a staff of physicians, a hospice patient is not required to change doctors. Any Louisiana licensed physician can be the primary physician if he or she wishes to continue caring for the hospice patient.


Does the hospice have an on-going program to monitor the quality of care provided to its patients?
Hospice of Natchitoches has in place several measures of quality care. One example of such measure is the Family Satisfaction Survey, sent to the primary care giver approximately one month after the patient's death. That survey helps us determine -- among other factors -- our rate of success in managing the patient's pain and discomforting symptoms, educating the family members in the care of their patient, and preparing the family emotionally for the death of their loved one. Another measure is a survey completed by family members in the bereavement program. That survey helps us determine how well we have helped family members cope with their loss after the patient's death.


Does the hospice program provide a volunteer to visit patients or assist the family with errands?
The volunteers of Hospice of Natchitoches share with us a belief in the right of each person to spend one's final days in peace and comfort and to die with dignity at home. They are trained and specially selected for duty in the areas of direct patient care, pastoral care, and bereavement care.


How experienced are the nurses in providing hospice care?
Hospice of Natchitoches employs registered nurses; who are certified in hospice and palliative nursing. Many have 10 or more years of experience in hospice care.


Is the hospice a locally based program or part of some larger organization?
Hospice of Natchitoches. was established in Natchitoches, Louisiana in 2000, and maintains its administrative office here. While other hospice programs may have a regional office in Natchitoches or a nearby city, many of them have corporate headquarters out of state sending employees from areas such as Shreveport, LA or Alexandria, LA.


What is the hospice program's general reputation in the community?
Since its founding in 2000, Hospice of Natchitoches has been fortunate to receive tremendous support from the communities it serves in the form of financial contributions, volunteer time, and general good will. Physicians in Natchitoches and Sabine Parish have chosen Hospice of Natchitoches as their preferred hospice of choice.


Does hospice only care for cancer patients?
Hospice is not just for cancer patients. Hospice of Natchitoches cares for patients with any life-limiting illness. Among the illnesses our patients have had are cardiac and respiratory diseases, renal disease, and neurological illness including Alzheimer's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, AIDS, Cirrhosis, and others.


Is hospice only for people who are dying?
Hospice is for people who have a limited life expectancy. (Actually, we all have a limited life expectancy, so it is more specific than that.) Hospice is for patients whose condition is such that a doctor would not be surprised if the patient died within the next six months. This doesn't mean the patient is going to die in the next six months--it simply means that he or she has a condition that makes dying a realistic possibility.


Once you begin hospice care, can you leave the program?
A person may sign out of the hospice program for a variety of reasons, such as resuming aggressive curative treatment or pursuing experimental measures. Or, if a patient shows signs of recovery, he or she can be discharged from hospice care and return to the program when the illness has progressed at a later time.

Should we wait for the doctor to suggest hospice?

You can, but oddly enough, doctors often wait for families to bring it up. This is part of the reason that people often receive hospice care so late in the process. If you think your loved one and family might benefit from the support of weekly home visits from staff who specialize in pain control and the easing of distress, ask your doctor if hospice might be something to consider now, or in the near future. If, when you are truly honest with yourself, you realize that you would not be surprised if your loved one were to die in the next six to twelve months, ask the doctor if he or she would be surprised. If the answer is anything close to "No, I would not be surprised," then maybe it's a good time to begin a discussion about hospice. If you would like more information, please feel free to call us toll-free 1-877-253-0006. We will be happy to talk with you or to do an informational home visit—no obligation or strings attached.

When is the best time to start hospice care?
Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier, that they needed the help much sooner than they received it. Research has shown that hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives. Families who receive hospice near the very end--just a few days to a week--have been shown to have a harder time adjusting during the bereavement period than do those whose loved one receives hospice care for weeks and months before passing on. If you even think that your family and the person you care for could benefit from pain or symptom management, assistance with bathing and grooming, emotional and spiritual support, and telephone access to caregiving advice, ask your physician if hospice might be a service to consider. Experts agree that at least two to three months of care is optimal. It is better to ask sooner rather than later so you do not regret having missed the support that hospice has to offer.

Isn't using hospice the same as "giving up"?
Not at all! Although your loved one's condition may have reached a point that a cure is not likely—or not likely enough to be worth the side effects of treatment—that does not mean there is nothing left to do. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her last months focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. As one man put it, "I'd rather spend my time with my children and grandchildren than waste my limited time and energy driving to the treatment center and recovering beside the toilet bowl." With the expert guidance of a nurse and case manager, as well as the assistance of certified nursing aides, social workers, and chaplains, patients and families find they can focus on their relationships, and building wonderful memories together. Far from giving up, hospice helps families truly live well and support each other during a stressful, but, in the end, very natural family life passage.

Who is Eligible?

Hospice has three key eligibility criteria:

  • The patient's doctor and the hospice medical director use their best clinical judgment to certify that the patient is terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less, if the disease runs its normal course.
  • The patient chooses to receive hospice care rather than curative treatments for his or her illness; and the patient enrolls in a Medicare-approved hospice program. Patients must reside within a 50 mile radius of Natchitoches.
  • Admission is based upon physician's referral.
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