Technically to qualify for hospice, the doctors have to evaluate you and believe that you have six months or less to live. You are reevaluated every three months in order to get "recertified" to remain on hospice. However, to put it bluntly, if you are not dying fast enough, you get taken off hospice. This means that even though your loved one is dying from their illness and you can not care for them alone, you now loose a lot of the help that allowed you to care for your loved one 24 hours a day.
- Do you know all the things you loose from going off of hospice? You no longer have aids to give baths, a nurse on-call when emergencies arise, a nurse who checks for changes in the patient regularly. You loose all the supplies like the diapers, bed pads, wheelchair, mouth swabs, pillows, wipes, ointment, and more. This makes a big difference for two reasons, one is that some of these items are hard to find in the regular world, and second the cost for these items is outrageous and not covered by Medicare anymore once you go off of hospice.
- Do you know how hard it is to find real adult diapers? Not Depends or something like that. Adult diapers that actually hold full amounts of liquid and solids, that open up like a diaper, and are made of materials that do not induce chafing and bed sores. It is really hard. Even the medical supply stores do not have the hospital grade undergarments needed for bed-bound people. It took weeks to find these for Mom.
- Do you know that equipment that was being paid for by Medicare through hospice does not stay with you when you go out of hospice, such as the Broda chair Mom had? This means in a few days time we had no chair for Mom to transfer to that was safe for her. A regular wheelchair is not appropriate for someone like Mom. The Broda chair Mom had was being paid for through hospice, it was now used, but we could not just buy that one for a discount or anything, we would have to buy a new Broda chair for $5,000. Dad found a used, slightly adjustable wheelchair for Mom like this one but we quickly found out that you can't just put anyone into any wheelchair, it needs to fit them properly. Skin breakdown and bed sores are very common for patients like Mom but leading up to this time she had only one little spot that looked irritated which we quickly fixed. As soon as we had to start putting Mom in wheelchairs that were not the right fit for her, she started getting skin breakdown. It took over a month of research and calling around to find out how we could actually get Mom a proper wheelchair through insurance because they are too expensive out of pocket.
- Do you know that most home health agencies do not employ caregivers who are able to help with things like bathing a patient or caregivers who know how to use equipment like a Hoyer lift or who have training in medical care at all? Hospice comes in and does this but once hospice leaves it is very hard to find enough replacement caregivers who can do more of the personal and medical care.
- Do you know that no matter who good your care coordination team is that the medical system is so convoluted it can be nearly impossible to figure out how to navigate the system to actually get what your loved one needs? My Dad is a doctor, we have friends in the medical field, we have Mom's doctors, we know many people who work in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, we even have Care Coordinators, and still it has been extremely difficult to get Mom what she needs. Hospice knows how to get through the hospice billing system to get supplies but once you are out of that, the same rules no longer apply and they can't advise you on how to get what you need. Nursing homes and living facilities get their supplies through other systems and can't advise on how to get help for someone living at home. None of the systems overlap and so even the best people have a hard time figuring out how to help.
What has been your experience with going from being in hospice to out?