Americans are experiencing a longer life span than ever before. It is estimated that by the year 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65 years of age. The number of elderly individuals who do not have a support system to provide long term care continues to increase. Long-term care helps to fill this critical need in today’s health care community.
In contrast to the rapid decline that precedes end of life from cancer, individuals typically found living in senior living environments generally suffer from multiple chronic conditions which cause a slow, steady decline in functional ability that culminates in extreme debility and ultimately, end-of- life. Often as the result of their slow decline the chronically ill patient’s terminal status is not recognized and adequate support prior to end-of-life is delayed or never obtained.
The hallmark of hospice care is that it is provided wherever you live – this includes group homes, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities. Unfortunately, hospice services are generally underutilized in long-term care environments. When utilized, hospice, working in conjunction with the long term care facility staff, is able to support the patient and their family as they move through end of life challenges.
When a long term care resident is enrolled in hospice, the hospice staff focuses on managing the patient’s symptoms, reducing the need for hospitalizations and improving patient and family satisfaction with care. Pain management is often a critical issue. Many elderly individuals who live with daily pain either are not receiving adequate pain management or are getting treatment that is inconsistent with current pain management guidelines. Hospice staff possesses the needed expertise to comprehensively evaluate and manage the pain and other symptoms.
The hospice long-term care partnership allows patients to receive care from a team of end-of-life professionals that specialize in humanizing the very difficult task of death and dying. Hospice care provides psycho-social and spiritual support in addition to pain control and symptom management. Hospice staff also provides education and skilled development to family members and facility caregivers to assist in addressing the concerns and anxiety which exist when individuals are dealing with end-of-life issues. Family members of patients who received hospice care report improved satisfaction with the care their loved one received and their overall end-of-life experience.