How Assisted Living and Hospice Work Together?

What comes to your mind when you hear the term hospice? Most people assume that when a senior’s health drastically declines, they would either have to physically move into a nursing home or a hospice. However, contrary to popular belief, this isn’t always true.

One of the most common misconceptions about hospice is that a lot of people still believe that ‘hospice’ is a place where seniors go to get treatment. While there are hospice facilities in the US, there are only a few of them. The term hospice pertains to a team of professionals who visits the elderly in their own homes – wherever they are located. Simply put, they are the ones who will go to the senior, rather than the other way around.

This is because seniors with terminal illnesses would rather spend their last days in the comforts of their own homes than in hospitals, nursing or hospice facilities. For the one million Americans seniors residing in assisted living facilities, they have considered these facilities to be their home. These seniors have formed lasting relationships with the staff, caregivers, and fellow residents.

Most assisted living facilities do not have an in-house hospice unit. In that case, the majority of them partner with community-based hospice companies so they can provide hospice services should their residents need it.

Hospice Care

One of the goals of hospice care is to lessen the pain and discomfort the patient feels when their illness is no longer appropriate for treatment. Medicare and other private healthcare insurance plans usually cover the cost of hospice care.

Hospice care is more than just giving medications – painkillers, sedatives, and whatnot. The care a hospice patient receives goes beyond medication management. Hospice care strives to maintain the best quality of life for your loved one for as long as possible. The hospice team not only ensures that the caregivers are well-versed on how to properly take care of the patient, but also provides emotional support and counseling to the patient and their loved ones. One of the primary goals of hospice care is to give the elderly an honorable, comfortable end of life.

Many assisted living facilities all over the United States are equipped with providing hospice care for their residents during their stay with the community. They are able to reap the benefits of hospice care without having to transfer to another facility or nursing home. However, in some states such as North Dakota, Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana, the state requires that hospice care should only be given outside assisted living facilities.

Since assisted living facilities do not provide comprehensive care, they cannot assure that they can accommodate residents until their last days. Terminally ill seniors require extensive and consistent medical care. In this case, senior residents may have to move into a hospital or nursing home. However, if the senior does not need comprehensive care or need to be hospitalized, they can very much receive hospice care in the assisted living facility.

Providing Comfort and Care

When medications and treatments are no longer working for your elderly loved one, hospice care takes over to give them the assistance, care, and comfort they need in times of distress. The hospice team works together with caregivers and other assisted living staff in order to create and provide the best care for senior residents.

Another misconception about hospice care is that it precipitates mortality. However, this isn’t true. Research suggests that seniors receiving hospice care live longer and better lives as opposed to seniors who do not. There are a lot of common misconceptions about hospice care, but it is simply a philosophy of care that aims to put your loved one’s interests in mind.

Assisted Living Facilities

An Assisted Living Facility is a type of senior care option for seniors who only require minimal aid in activities of daily living.

It helps seniors to remain independent in a safe and healthy environment while providing them with the assistance they need.

A lot of assisted living facilities are an advocate of the philosophy ‘aging in place’. This means that the senior resident will receive care, one way or another, without having to leave the facility. Aging in place enables the residents to reside in their senior community of choice for as long as they want – from post-retirement and even to the end-of-life stage. This gives seniors a sense of security in their long-term care planning.

Assisted Living and Hospice Care: Working Together

Since an assisted living community is primarily for seniors who require minimal assistance, are these facilities able to accommodate residents approaching the end-of-life stage?

The Center for Excellence in Assisted Living says that in most cases, hospice care is available. Besides, hospice care was initially designed to be an in-home service with only the clinicians present from the agency. As mentioned, many assisted living facilities’ staff work with hospice agencies to determine the type and level of care needed by the patient.
Hospice care providers visit seniors residing in assisted living facilities who are terminally ill or at the end-of-life stage. The Assisted Living Federation of America states that approximately one-third of seniors in assisted living communities receive end-of-life care within the community.

When is Hospice the right choice?

There are several factors caregivers or family members can look out for that indicates when hospice care is appropriate for your loved one. These include:

  • Sudden or rapid unintentional weight loss
  • More frequent trips to the emergency room or the doctor’s office
  • An obvious decline in the senior’s physical and mental health status
  • A decline in the senior’s level of mobility, requiring numerous interventions by the facility’s staff
  • Requiring more assistance when it comes to daily activities or when the senior has become visibly weaker
  • The senior chooses to stop any aggressive treatment options
  • Underlying disease of the senior is rapidly progressing causing a new diagnosis

If you or the facility notice a steady decline in your loved one’s health or for seniors who are given a prognosis of six months or less, hospice care may be recommended by the facility or the senior’s medical team.

Dying is never easy. It takes a toll on the senior and his/her loved ones. However, it is inevitable; which is why hospice care ensures that your loved one will pass away with dignity and honor they so rightly deserve.

As your loved one ages, it is best to be prepared for every possibility – even the end-of-life stage. Assisted living facilities work with hospice care providers to accommodate the ever-changing needs of their residents so they don’t have to move into another facility.