Below are some of the most commonly-asked questions about Hospice Care:

  • What is Hospice? +

    Hospice is a special way of providing medical, emotional, social and spiritual care to persons and families who are living with terminal illness. Its aim is palliative (for comfort), not curative. Hospice of Kankakee Valley is committed to providing quality, holistic, patient and family-focused service through a plan of comfort care, while maintaining the dignity and independence of the patient and family.

    Hospice is a philosophy of care focused on comfort for the patient and care for the entire family. Hospice professionals are experts in pain and symptom management as well as spiritual care and emotional support. This care is available wherever patients live – usually in their own homes, but also in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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  • Does accepting hospice care mean giving up? +

    No. Hospice can help patients and their loved ones address their fears and concerns. We can also help redefine hope in terms of the quality of life. With hospice care, the focus of hope shifts toward physical comfort and peace of mind during the final stages of life. For more than 30 years we have helped thousands of patients and families through this difficult time and we recognize that every patient and family is unique.

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  • Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice or should I mention it first? +

    You should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with your physician, other health care professionals, clergy or friends. Feel free to call us at (815) 939-4141 and we can help to answer any questions you have about hospice care.

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  • Do I have to wait for my physician to tell me about hospice care? +

    While anyone can make a referral call, the decision to choose hospice should be made by the patient and family, with the input of their physician. Throughout the course of the illness, open and honest discussion about treatment options is very important, and that includes the benefits and burdens of treatment, as well as the option of choosing hospice care when the time is appropriate. If a patient or family feels the physician is reluctant to discuss hospice care, it is always appropriate for one or the other to broach the subject or call HKV for consult or information.

    It is important to talk about end-of-life care with your loved ones and your physician so they will know your wishes. Talking about hospice care and other treatment options before care is needed may make the decision easier for you or a loved one. Hospice of Kankakee Valley offers complimentary copies of the Five Wishes Healthcare Power of Attorney form. This is a user-friendly advance directive that uses plain language to guide the user through expressing his or her wishes for care and becomes a legal document when signed by the participant. HKV periodically offers educational sessions explaining the implementation of Five Wishes. Call the HKV office at (815) 939-4141 to request a copy of Five Wishes.

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  • What if I use hospice but then get better? +

    Sometimes, a terminally-ill patient’s health improves or their illness goes into remission. If that occurs, your doctor may recommend that you no longer need hospice care. You or your doctor may decide to stop hospice care at any time. If your health should decline again, your doctor may recommend hospice services again.

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  • Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner? +

    No. The hospice philosophy of care aims to keep the patient as comfortable and independent as he or she wishes during the natural course of the terminal disease. Hospice seeks neither to hasten nor prolong the dying process. The prevailing fears many people have about death are of dying in pain, of being isolated from others, of being a financial burden and of losing control.

    Hospice of Kankakee Valley addresses these fears by providing expert pain and symptom control, offering companionship and emotional support to the patient and family, providing services regardless of ability to pay and designing a plan of care dictated by the wishes of the patient.Hospice doesn’t speed up the dying process or postpone death. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of child birth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.

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  • Must someone be with the patient at all times? +

    In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally recommends someone be there continuously. While family and friends do deliver most of the care, volunteers can assist with errands and provide a break for caregivers.

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  • Is hospice care covered by insurance? +

    Medicare and Medicaid cover the full cost of hospice care. Most private insurance plans also cover hospice care and the reimbursements vary by plan. Because of generous support from the community, no patient is ever turned away because of an inability to pay.

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  • Who pays for hospice care? +

    In accordance with our Mission and thanks to the generous support of our community, Hospice of Kankakee Valley provides services regardless of ability to pay. Medicare and Medicaid have a Hospice Benefit that covers care, supplies and medications related to the terminal illness. Many private insurance plans also pay for hospice care. Medicare and Medicaid recipients are never billed for hospice services, and the cost for patients who do not qualify for Medicare, Medicaid or insurance, or who owe co-pays or deductibles, is determined on a sliding scale.

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  • Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies? +

    Hospice provides continuing contact and support for the family for 13 months following the death of a loved one. Support can take the form of individual sessions, education or group meetings.
    Our bereavement support services are also available to anyone in the community who has experienced a death of a family member, loved one or friend.

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  • Isn’t hospice care only for patients with cancer? +

    No. Although on average 44% of the patients admitted to Hospice of Kankakee Valley have conditions related to cancer, last year 62% had other diagnoses including heart and lung disease, AIDS, stroke, dementia, liver disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), as well as overall decline in condition and other diseases at end stage.

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  • Is hospice care only for adults? +

    No. Hospice serves eligible patients of any age. This includes infants, children and young adults.

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  • Does the patient have to be in a hospital or nursing home? +

    No. The hospice philosophy is based on the belief that patients with advanced illness can live and die among friends and family in familiar surroundings and centers on the desire that the patient’s last days be spent in comfortable dignity at home or in a home-like setting, including nursing homes, inpatient hospice facilities and hospitals. Since the entire family is the focus of care, all family members, including children, benefit from Hospice care.

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  • How does hospice manage pain? +

    Every member of the Hospice of Kankakee Valley team is trained to assess for pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. Hospice nurses and doctors are up-to-date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief, and are experienced in recognizing signs of pain (verbal and non-verbal). HKV staff, the patient’s physician, the patient, and the family all work together to set goals for the management of pain and treat pain promptly and effectively, which enables the patient to remain comfortable while participating in activities as he or she chooses. HKV believes that emotional and spiritual pains are just as real as physical pain and offers the help of counselors and clergy.

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  • How long do hospice patients live? +

    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.

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  • Do most hospice patients die at home? +

    Yes. Hospice of Kankakee Valley is primarily home-based. If pain and symptoms cannot be controlled at home, patients can be hospitalized; however, this is extremely rare. We also have contracts with long-term care and assisted living facilities and serve people who call these facilities home.

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  • Can I choose to discontinue hospice care once I am admitted? +

    Certainly. Patients have the right to revoke hospice services if they wish to pursue other treatment options. A patient may also be discharged if his or her condition improves or does not decline as expected, and can be readmitted later if he or she still qualifies. Also, a patient who lives longer than the physician’s prognosis – studies show that patients benefiting from the personalized supportive care of hospice often live longer than those who do not use hospice services – may be recertified and can continue hospice care as long as they qualify.

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  • Some interesting statistics: +

    A study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that the mean survival was 29 days longer for hospice patients than those who chose not to elect hospice care. More importantly, they were spared much painful, expensive, and intrusive treatment, and they could lean on the compassionate support offered by hospice staff and volunteers.

    A 2004 University of Pittsburgh study in the Journal of Medical Care revealed that on average interviewees were willing to trade seven months of healthy life just to ensure better quality of care in the final month of life. A “good death” is most precious and it can happen with Hospice of Kankakee Valley.

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