Depending on the progression of the disease and the time of referral, the length of stay in hospice care varies greatly. Some people believe that a person qualifies for hospice only if he or she is bedridden, unable to care for him or herself, or acutely dying. This is untrue. Many of our patients are still quite mobile, are able to care for themselves and can participate actively in daily living. A few patients have lived over two years in our care while continuing to meet hospice guidelines. Early referral to Hospice of Kankakee Valley can help ensure that a patient receives the maximum benefits available.
No one can accurately predict how an illness will run its course or how long a person will live, but in accordance with Medicare regulations a physician must certify that, to the best of his or her knowledge, the patient will live six months or less if the disease progresses naturally. This does not mean that a hospice patient cannot live longer than six months. Patients can be recertified and remain under the care of hospice if they continue to meet certain criteria specific to their illness. Occasionally, a patient’s condition will improve so that he or she no longer meets qualifications for hospice care. If this occurs, the patient can be discharged and readmitted when hospice care is needed again.
Sadly, the reality is that many patients come to hospice just days or hours before death. When a patient is referred to hospice care very late in the disease, sometimes the patient and family’s priority is to focus on bringing pain and symptoms under control, and there is little time to develop a plan of care that incorporates the patient’s and family’s emotional, spiritual and social well-being. While we believe that a patient can benefit from even one day of hospice care, we know that optimal holistic care is best achieved when a referral is made early.