Q. I am currently receiving treatment for my second recurrence of cancer. I have no family or friends close by, and my husband works so if I become very sick I will be home alone most of the time. How will hospice be able to help us? I know that they can't be here 24/7. Any idea what my options will be?

A.

The focus of hospice is on the care and comfort of the individual and his or her family, not cure. Usually hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, but hospice services are also provided in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers. The hospice team can include: the patient’s attending physician or a hospice doctor, social workers, nurses, home health aides, medical specialists, counselors, clergy, and volunteers. The goals of hospice care include managing any pain or symptoms that arise and providing emotional, spiritual and practical support to the patient and family.

When hospice is needed, you should be able to get up to 20 hours of home health aide services through hospice care (depending on the state where you live, assistance can also be called CNA hours). A common dilemma is figuring out how to supplement the services hospice offers if additional hours are needed. While there is not an easy answer, I have a few suggestions:

  • Ask if the hospice has volunteers who can visit a few times a week as they often have volunteer programs.
  • If you are connected with a faith community, ask if they have staff or volunteers from the congregation who could help.
  • Check with the home care agency that your hospice uses to see what additional hours might cost. For additional information, see Hiring In-Home Help.
  • Inquire through the hospice agency for recommendations of private-hire caregivers who have cared for other hospice patients and are experienced with providing this type of supplemental care.
  • Remember that if your needs increase, hospice can arrange short-term in-patient stays until your needs decrease and you can return home.
  • I know you mentioned not having family close by, but for others who might, family members could explore Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) options.

For additional information about hospice care, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website, Caring Connections.