Assisted Living and Hospice Care: Easing End of Life Transitions
Assisted living communities are increasingly conducive aging-in-place. Working in tandem with hospice care, communities are often able to accommodate residents through end-of-life.
Many assisted living communities espouse a philosophy called “aging-in-place,” meaning that residents receive increasing levels of care without having to leave the community. Aging in place allows residents to stay in their community for as long as they choose, and from active retirement living to end-of-life hospice care, which removes a lot of the uncertainty from the long-term care planning. To accommodate residents through end-of-life, many assisted living communities allow hospice care providers to visit residents who are terminally ill. According to the Assisted Living Federation of America, around one-third of assisted living residents receive end-of-life care at the community they have made their home.
Hospice care, which is covered by Medicare (and some other kinds of insurance), provides what’s known as palliative care – care that eases pain and alleviates discomfort when a patient’s illness is no longer responding to treatment. Hospice nurses do much more than provide medications such as painkillers and sedatives. They educate the patient’s primary caregiver as well as provide emotional support and counseling to the patient and the patient’s loved ones. The goal is to allow the patient to have a dignified and comfortable exit from this life.
Hospice Care: Peace, Comfort and Dignity
A common misconception about hospice is that it’s somewhere patients go. While there are some hospice facilities, these are fairly rare. Hospice nurses visit patients in their own homes, wherever that happens to be. For assisted living residents, of course, the community is their home.
A growing number of assisted living communities are able to accommodate residents who need hospice care during their time at the community. While four states (Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, and North Dakota) have regulations requiring hospice care be provided in setting outside of assisted living, in other states it’s fully permissible and the discretion of the senior community.
No assisted living community can guarantee that they will be able to accommodate resident until their last days. Certain scenarios will require that a terminally ill resident be moved to a nursing home or hospital. But if the resident doesn’t need the kind of care or attention that’s provided at a hospital or nursing home, he or she can very often remain at the senior community with the aid of hospice.
Jennifer Hall, Marketing Director of Aegis Living told us, “The hospice concept of comfort and dignity is fully embraced by Aegis and we are committed to assisting our residents to access this benefit if desired. When medicine cannot provide a cure, hospice can offer comfort, care and assistance that can help maintain a better quality of life for the patient.” Hospice nurses, who are very team oriented, will work together with the staff of the assisted living community to coordinate and plan care.
Another misconception about hospice is that it hastens death. A fascinating article in The New Yorker dispels this myth, and describes a study showing that hospice patients sometimes even live longer than patients who are not receiving hospice:
“…researchers followed 4,493 Medicare patients with either terminal cancer or congestive heart failure. They found no difference in survival time between hospice and non-hospice patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Curiously, hospice care seemed to extend survival for some patients; those with pancreatic cancer gained an average of three weeks, those with lung cancer gained six weeks, and those with congestive heart failure gained three months. The lesson seems almost Zen: you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer.”
A Place for Mom can assist families who are interested in senior communities that allow visiting hospice care. Our Senior Living Advisors provide families and seniors a tailored list of communities that meets their specific needs and preferences, and they can provide a list of appropriate senior communities that permit onsite hospice should it one day become necessary.
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