Hospice respite care is an integral component of hospice care, the form of health care that primarily focuses on the palliation – or relief of symptoms and suffering – of terminally ill patients with an aim to address and attend to emotional and spiritual needs near the end-of-life experience.
Respite care is a short-term relief plan that aids in giving in-home hospice caregivers a much-needed break on an occasional basis.
Hospice caregiving is an intense undertaking that prioritizes the comfort and quality of life of a loved one with the aim to reduce their pain and suffering. Unfortunately, it comes with a hefty stress toll that can be a major burden on families.
According to recent data, the average amount of time that patients spend in hospice is on the rise. With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have been issued incentives to reduce deaths that occur at hospitals. This means that hospice care is a long-term haul with an average length just shy of 90 days. While there are shorter-term cases, with a certain number of patients passing within three weeks of hospice enrollment, there are plenty of illnesses and conditions that take more time.
There are four different levels of hospice care and they include:
- Hospice Care at Home
For patients and families who opt for home care, care occurs in a familiar space. This can provide much comfort to a dying individual and reduce the travel burden for caretakers. In addition, a home hospice care team brings diagnoses-specific equipment, supplies and medication to the care environment, which allows a more seamless delivery of care that supports dignity and quality of life in known surroundings.
- Continuous Hospice Care
Similar to the above category, continuous hospice care provides 24/7 support to manage acute symptoms, provide routine services, and avoid hospitalization. It’s an intense, medically necessary level of provision.
- Inpatient Hospice Care
For times or occasions when symptoms and care cannot be managed at home, inpatient hospice care requires a patient to be brought onsite to a medical or healthcare facility for acute care around the clock.
- Respite Care
With this form of care, the patient spends a short period of time in a certified inpatient hospice setting to allow for primary caregivers to have a rest. Its aim is to help prevent burnout and to provide the best level of care possible on a consistent basis.
Recover From Demands
Hospice respite care covers up to five consecutive days of inpatient care at Medicare-approved facilities or hospitals. Additionally, it is sometimes invoked when the patient’s medical condition requires a short-term inpatient stay or to address symptoms that become unmanageable at home. The five days of respite care include the day of admission, but do not include the day of discharge. Medicare guidelines state that respite occurrences can be used more than once, but not longer than five consecutive days.
Important Facts on Respite Care
In order to count as respite care, care must be:
- Prearranged and approved by a hospice provider
- Appropriate for the patients; for example, it is not something that can be invoked for a patient who is already in a 24/7 nursing home or healthcare facility
- Must follow complex Medicare respite rules and state rules surrounding hospice respite care
How Respite Care Helps
When dealing with loss, whether anticipating it or in its wake, grief is expected. The degree of loss varies based on circumstances and timelines but overall, those dealing with the hospice care system are dealing with difficult experiences.
Family losses can be especially difficult due to the complex nature of family relationships. Depending on how close you are to the individual who is dying or has died, or how much you’ve contributed to the workload of seeing this person through their journey, respite care can aid in allowing individuals of the same family to experience vastly different takes on grief.
Most hospice programs offer counseling and bereavement counseling that can help those understand their stages of grief and positive ways to process feelings. Grief requires space and lack of judgment. Grief counseling forges a positive environment for the open expression of grief without fear or judgment. Many aspects include anger, fear, selfishness and sadness.
With grief counseling in tandem with respite care, a multi-faceted approach to difficult circumstances can take center stage, providing emotional and physical relief. As such, grief is one of the most cited circumstances that requires inpatient respite care.
Reasons for Respite Care
You may consider respite care if you:
- Are physically or emotionally exhausted
- Need space to deal with your own complex feelings and emotions surrounding anticipatory loss
- Require help with managing complex pain symptoms
- Just need a break
- Are sick or ill and need time to recover
- Want to attend an important or required life event
- Need to take a vacation
While far from comprehensive, the above lists the main reasons why caregivers need a break. Deciding the timelines for when to bring in outside help can be a hard process, and deciding when to take a respite break can be even harder.
At Wings of Hope, we know that there are more than 90 million Americans living with a life-impacting illness or facing a life-limiting challenge. Right now, it’s far too common of an occurrence that in-home hospice care is a task taken on by a loved one or a team of loved ones. But even in attending to a sick or dying individual, life does go on and respite care affords the opportunity for those that are living to continue having a life alongside the process of death.
Our team is here to discuss options with you and your loved ones. We can help you prepare and support a loved one through their end-of-life journey without neglecting your own well-being.