Are all hospices the same?

No. “Hospice” is a medical specialty like pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, etc. Each hospice is a different organization or company. All hospices have the same general philosophy but their services may differ. Some hospices are for-profit corporations, while others (like Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice) are not-for-profit organizations. In Massachusetts, it is your right to request the hospice of your choice if more than one hospice serves your area.

Does Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice care only for cancer patients?

No. Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice cares for persons with any terminal illness who meet admission criteria. These illnesses include, but are not limited to, end stage heart disease, stroke, lung disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia, AIDS, kidney disease, Adult Failure to Thrive, as well as all cancers.

Can my pain and symptoms be controlled at home?

Yes. Pain and other symptoms can usually be controlled in the patient’s home. If a symptom (i.e. pain, nausea or vomiting, or difficulty breathing) becomes a problem, the hospice nurse can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There have been great advances in pain and symptom control in the past few years. Most symptoms can be controlled without the use of injections or IV medication. The hospice nurse will assess the patient’s pain and symptom control at each visit and will contact the patient’s physician if medication adjustments are necessary.

Does hospice provide 24 hour in home care?

No. Hospice provides intermittent nursing visits to assess, monitor and treat symptoms, as well as to teach family and caregivers the skills they need to care for the patient. Team members are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions or visit anytime the need for support arises. Hospice care is not meant to “take over” or to “replace” the family.

Where is hospice care provided?

Hospice care is provided in a setting that best meets the needs of each patient and family. The most common setting is the patient’s home or the home of a relative. Hospice care is also provided in extended care facilities/nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals according to patient care needs.

Can I live alone and still receive hospice services?

Yes. Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice accepts patients who live alone. However, part of the admission and ongoing care process is to plan and prepare for the time in a patient’s illness when 24-hour a day care will be necessary.

Can a hospice patient choose to return to curative treatment?

Yes. Receiving hospice care is always a choice. Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice values and respects a patient’s individual beliefs and desires. Aggressive or curative treatment can be resumed at any time by revoking the Hospice benefit. For those requiring continued skilled care, the care can be delivered as part of a Home Health program. If the patient later chooses to return to hospice care, Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance companies permit re-activation of the hospice benefit.

Can I keep my own doctor and receive hospice care?

Yes. Hospice does not require a patient to change physicians in order to receive hospice care. In fact, hospice patients must have a primary physician who works in coordination with the hospice team.

Can I go back to the hospital and still receive hospice care?

Yes. However, many symptoms that would normally require hospitalization or an emergency room visit can be successfully managed at home by the hospice team, thus preventing the stress of hospitalization. Hospice patients generally only have the need for short hospital stays to stabilize a symptom and then are able to return home.

Is the decision for hospice care giving up hope or waiting to die?

No. Hospice is about living. Hospice strives to bring quality of life and comfort to a patient and his or her family. Our successes are in helping a patient and family live fully until the end. Often patients will feel better with good pain and symptom management. Hospice is an experience of care and support, different from any other type of care.

Do I have to be homebound to receive hospice services?

No. Hospice is about living fully. We encourage patients to do what they enjoy as they are able. The hospice team assists patients and families in achieving their goals as much as possible.

Does hospice provide support to the family after the patient dies?

Yes. Bereavement Services follow family and caregivers for thirteen months after the patient’s death. These services may include personal visits, providing information concerning the grief process and offering periodic opportunities for group support. Bereavement Services provides information and referral to other area resources when needed. Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice offers Bereavement Support Groups for both children and adults.