Aging Well

Aging Well

What is hospice and palliative care?

Posted June 10, 2021 9:00 a.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2021 9:25 a.m. EDT

Jackie Ring is Vice President of Clinical Services, Chief Innovation Officer at Transitions LifeCare

Did you know hospice and palliative care are not just for the last few days of life? In fact, patients who seek services sooner often find more peace, less pain, and more "living" during the last months, weeks, and days of their lives. Also, many assume hospice care is just for cancer patients when in fact some of the most common diagnoses of hospice patients include Congestive Heart Failure, Alzheimer's, COPD, and cancer. Having conversations about advance directives and palliative care, as well as the patient's wishes, goes a long way toward ensuring a smoother and desirable transition along the continuum of care. Jackie Ring, PhD, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, Vice President of Clinical Services, Chief Innovation Officer at Transitions LifeCare, answered some common questions people have.

  1. Does calling hospice mean my family member is just giving up?
    While hospice has been around for a while--many people cite Dame Cicely Saunders, MD, who opened her now-famous Saint Christopher's Hospice in 1967 in Sydenham, England--there are still misconceptions on exactly what hospice and palliative care are. When doctors predict a patient has six months or less to live, they often say there’s nothing more that can be done. Yet by choosing hospice care, patients often find they can live those final months more fully by experiencing increased comfort and peace-of-mind. Palliative care is effective when you’re diagnosed with a chronic serious illness, which often includes physical and emotional challenges that can stop you from enjoying your normal quality of life. Palliative care brings improvements by preventing or relieving symptoms, such as pain and anxiety.

  2. What value does Transitions LifeCare bring to patients and their family members?
    We evaluate each patient individually so we can ensure we're providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time. The evaluation will help us determine which of our services best fit the patient, whether it's home health, palliative care, or hospice. We truly believe in our mission, which is "to care for individuals and families with compassion, support, and expertise as they navigate the end of life or life-changing illness."

  3. What training or credentials do people who work in hospice have?
    Our clinical staff consists of physicians, nurses, spiritual care counselors, social workers, and nurse aides. Transitions LifeCare is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) and is Medicare- and Medicaid-accredited, licensed, and certified.

  4. What are the three most common reasons people contact Transitions LifeCare?
    - Because they're facing decisions about their care, trying to navigate healthcare resources based on their healthcare needs.
    - They may be calling on behalf of a loved one who is facing a medical challenge.
    - They're looking for support services offered through our grief center.

  5. Tell me one story about how you have helped a patient or a patient's family member?
    We have countless stories of times when families have allowed us the privilege of coming into their homes at a most tender time. Rest assured, we will pull together a team to discuss and determine the best plan of care for that patient; we help match the need of the patients and their families to the services we offer.

  6. How do I find end-of-life care if I don’t live in this region? Is there a database or association I should search?
    We recommend you visit The National Hospice and Palliative C are Organization and click on "resources."

  7. What can I expect to pay for these services?
    Hospice services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Palliative care is covered by Medicare Part B, Medicaid, and private insurance. Home health is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and private pay. Our bereavement services are available to anyone in the community, whether or not they've had a loved one served by Transitions LifeCare, and are free of charge. No one has ever been turned away from any of our services for inability to pay.

  8. What are names of other individuals/agencies working in this region in this space?
    We recommend that you have conversations with your primary care physician or trusted friends and family members when considering end-of-life care. Transitions LifeCare, the largest independent hospice provider based in Wake County provides services to those living in Wake, eastern Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Harnett, and Johnston counties, as well as in Chapel Hill and Carrboro (Orange County). There are more than 100 hospice providers in North Carolina.

  9. Any additional advice?
    You don't have to wait for your doctor to mention end-of-life care. By calling when you're experiencing a life-limiting illness - or illnesses - we can help to provide care and comfort as well as emotional support so you can spend quality time with your loved ones. Don't wait too long to bring palliative and/or hospice in. We can be a valued part of your care team along with your primary care physician and any specialists as soon as you receive a life-limiting diagnosis.