By Kevin O'Keefe

A child’s perspective of hospice

I shared my perspective on hospice over on Facebook and received a lot of likes and comments, including a suggestion that I share my post here on my blog to help more of you.

If you’re close to my age you’ll be facing the challenge of aging parents. One of the things I have found very comforting is hospice care services that enable a parent to pass with dignity.

I am sure there are plenty of good articles on hospice and friends for you to talk to. I just thought I’d share my perspective from someone with two parents who have been under hospice care. Dad still is.

Key to making it work for us was having an across the board power of attorney for healthcare. Also had power of attorney for parents that I believe took effect when they became incapable of acting on their behalf.

Passing in dignity will become something you will find great comfort in, assuming your parent has left a medical directive not to provide certain care to keep them alive. Medicine and medical care that’s considered ordinary will probably keep your parent alive longer than may have liked had they known. No question the case for my Mom and Dad.

With a power of attorney for healthcare and a directive, you’ll then have the responsibility to pull back on certain medical care your parent would not want — and you’ll need to be making that decision for them knowing what they would have wanted and what you believe best. That’s where passing with dignity and hospice comes in.

Hospice does not mean a place where care is provided but more a method of care which can be provided anywhere. Hospice care could be provided to a parent at home, at an assisted living facility, a nursing home or anywhere. My Mom passed at home and my Dad will pass in an assisted living facility. Without hospice they would have passed in a hospital or nursing home, something they may not have wanted and something less comfortable for the family.

Hospice care, once you qualify, will give you a visiting hospice nurse specializing in aging and dying who will provide you great comfort. They’ll monitor your parent’s decline and establish a baseline so they’ll start to know when the day becomes closer — though no one has a crystal ball. They report into a doctor employed by the healthcare center providing the hospice service.

Hospice also provides counseling and religious people as desired by your parent and/you. We used our own priest and leaned on family and the hospice nurse and the people I knew with the hospice office for support. They are incredibly comforting and caring people.

Hospice can be provided to you by any healthcare agency, center etc at least as I observed. This means a parent in one facility need not use the hospice care the facility suggests or assigns, it is your choice.

I called a home health nurse who told me about hospice for my Mom. In my Dad’s case I called her again and now she was heading hospice care for a local healthcare center. That was wonderful as she then personally helped get everything set up. You can see that relationships like everywhere mean the world here.

Hospice care is paid through Medicare so there is a test with 4 factors the hospice nurse gives to qualify. There can be some gray area which can help get you qualified sooner depending on your relationship with the provider. I suppose hospice could be paid on your own — I don’t know.

Once qualified you will be asked to sign documents, assuming you have healthcare power of attorney. This will enable your parent to pass without administering medical care except for relief of pain. No IV for fluids. No feeding tube. No resuscitation. No rushing to hospital for emergency treatment. Assuming that is what you want. I know my folks wanted that and we acted for them.

I think it was helpful for one child to have the healthcare power of attorney so they could act “with acquiescence.” The hospice nurse then consults with that child, but of course is available to speak with other family members — the nurse wants to give comfort to all.

Of course all of this is for parents, as in my case, where they have had great lives and their health was in decline over time, not a sudden event.

All I know I was greatly comforted by knowing we could enable Mom and Dad to pass with dignity and that hospice care was invaluable.

Elder law and estate planning were not my speciality while practicing, as you can probably tell. Check out the Facebook comments from some good lawyers for more insight on the law.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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