Archive for Hospice Team

Please Say “Yes!” to a Home Health Aide!

Why would hospice patients say no to a home health aide?

At our weekly hospice team meetings, we review every patient’s current situation. This includes the various staff assigned to a patient’s care. It goes something like this:

What about Juan Lopez?

  • Nurse . . . two to three times a week
  • Social Worker . . . one to two times a month
  • Chaplain . . . phone contact only
  • Home Health Aide . . . declined
  • Volunteer . . . one to two times a month

What about Mary Jones?

  • Nurse . . . one time a week
  • Social Worker . . . two to three times a month
  • Chaplain . . . two to three times a month
  • Home Health Aide . . . declined
  • Volunteer . . . declined

Of course, the above names are fictional. In a typical meeting, the hospice where I work will talk in detail about scores of patients. We discuss the recent deaths and new admissions, along with all of the ongoing patients served in their homes or facilities. Every patient has a choice about which of their “team” provides direct support to them. However, every patient must be seen by a nurse, from as little as several times a month to (though rare) every day. It depends on the needs. Read More →

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Hospice: Mistakes and Disappointments

I’d prefer not to write these next words, but they are occasionally true: a hospice will disappoint patients and families.

  • A hospice social worker brings the wrong forms, wrong answers, or wrong attitude.
  • Patients rightly get angry if the chaplain or home health aid says one thing, but does another.
  • Families feel neglected because they phoned on a Saturday morning for an on-call nurse and are still waiting for the visit as evening approaches.

My goals for this website include being upbeat and informative about hospice care. As a pastor in various congregations over many years, I’ve witnessed hospice compassionately serving church members. The hospice “team” helped make the worst time of life become bearable. I was a hospice chaplain and now work with bereavement at a hospice. My current (and past) colleagues are responsible, caring, and thoughtful hospice professionals.

Then why say anything negative? Because . . .

  • Unintentional mistakes are made.
  • Sometimes there was nothing “wrong” done by any staff, but families can still be angry and will blame hospice.
  • Though I’ve only known good and kind hospice staff (and volunteers) . . . there will always be some “bad apples.”
  • When anyone searches for lousy news about hospice (like “killing a patient” by misusing medications or Medicare fraud), it will be found on the Internet.

Bad exists. Bad happens. Inevitably, the rare bad occurrences are usually more tempting to headline and highlight than the frequent, commonplace good.

What are some of the disappointments that patients or families will experience? (And what I mention next is not based on researching formal complaints or sharing confidential data about specific patients at hospices where I’ve worked. Instead, these are generic—but possible—scenarios that can happen at any hospice with any family while caring for a dying loved one.) Read More →

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The First (Awful) Visit from Hospice

Your doorbell rings. You glance out the window and spot two people. They are wearing identical nametags with the word Hospice in a large font. Though expected, they are strangers at your door.

Yesterday, you’d met the hospice’s admitting nurse at the hospital. She’d promised that “your hospice team” would soon phone to schedule a first visit. A person—you couldn’t remember the name—had called several hours before. Soon had become now.

For a moment, you consider not answering the door. You don’t like meeting new people. You don’t like strangers in your home. They will judge your lousy housekeeping. They will make messes. They will ask questions you’d rather not answer. They will irritate your already irritable and very sick spouse.

If you didn’t answer, would they leave?

Do you really need hospice?

What if your beloved gets better? In the past, the disease seemed to be winning and then, like a miracle—along with lengthy hospital stays, terrible chemo treatments, and more trips to the doctors’ offices—your spouse bounced back to nearly normal.

But this time, normal seems impossible.

They ring the doorbell again. Read More →

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