My friend Mike Terrill has been blogging his way through terminal cancer, with the help of his daughter, Anna. Anna wrote the blog today (which means Mike wasn’t up to it), and said they had switched from Home Health Care to Hospice Care. I consider myself a fairly knowledgable person, so when my daughter asked me what was the difference I realized I didn’t know – which usually means I’m not the only one. So – lets learn together, and increase awareness at the same time.
We will start with Home Health Care. A quick “google” shows why I could easily be confused. Home Health Care is listed as everything from having nurses come in to your home when you don’t want to go to the hospital, to having personal assistants come in to help you shower when you can no longer do it yourself. Home Health Care, depending on where you are, can be licensed, volunteer, through an agency, or just what your spouse or child does for you. One article even said Home Health Care was simply a different name for Hospice care, although you will see this is not really true. Insurance companies often require you to utilize a Home Health Company before they will pay. Some insurances do not pay period. Home Health Care is as confusing as types of Cancer!!!! But the basic definition that is real and true is this. Home Health Care is utilized to help you get better. They will TREAT your illness. Antibiotics, bandaging, communication with your doctors and other health care providers, calling in physical, occupational, speech or other rehabilitative therapists, coordination of necessary appointments and care. They will also help with personal hygiene, and even in some cases cooking and light housework. It all depends on how your orders are written. There is also a type of Home Health Care that you can pay for out-of-pocket, and it’s basically like hiring a maid/nurse/helper. No matter what it’s called, Home Health Care is designed to help you GET BETTER. They catch new problems early, so they don’t become big problems and interfere with your recovery. Even for a terminal patient, Home Health is designed to treat ancillary illnesses, so they have less chance of becoming a big problem.
Okay, you say, I got it – but I thought that was what Hospice Care was – Home Health Care for terminal patients? Not really. Hospice Care is “palliative”. It is care that relieves discomfort/pain, but does nothing to alleviate the actual illness. Hospice Care, whether given at home, or in a nursing facility, is care to make the end of a person’s life as comfortable as possible. One website called it compassionate and humane care to assist with the end of a person’s life. Hospice care will administer pain medications, make sure you don’t have bed sores, whatever it takes to make your last days, weeks or months comfortable as possible. If that means you want chocolate pudding every day, so be it. They will make sure that you get the medication and treatment required for your comfort. They allow the patient, and the family, time to just “be” family, time to just be together. Hospice Care also encompasses the whole family – not just the patient. Home Health takes care of the person who is sick – Hospice Care includes the family – even after the patient’s fight is over. Counseling for the patient and the family about death and dying is all encompassed with Hospice Care. The thing about Hospice Care is it is patient specific. A treatment plan is written based on the medical conditions, and needs, of the terminally ill person. Most insurance will pay for Hospice Care without much trouble, from what I was reading today. As always with any insurance questions, your personal agent or insurance company will know your individual requirements for any payments for care.
So there is a difference, and depending on your health condition and your personal needs, a pretty drastic one. Home Health Care is designed for those patients who desire/require health care. Hospice Care is for those patients who have a terminal condition, and just want to spend their remaining weeks or months comfortably, with their family included in that care. For me, learning about these differences has been an eye opener in many ways.
Anna, I see now why you wrote it in the blog the way you did – “the H word”. I didn’t know. Now I do – and I’m going to try to see that others do as well.
Thanks for your time in reading this today – please give me a couple more seconds and share. Awareness must include all information, even that which we don’t really want to hear.