Hospice care in San Diego County is an important end-of-life care option for patients and their families. It can provide comfort, support, and dignity after the diagnosis of a serious medical condition and when a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease follows its normal course. However, family situations and the course of an illness do vary from one patient to the next, so it is important that hospice providers take a customized approach to managing pain and providing families with support.

Medicare requires that providers offer four levels of hospice care support to ensure an individualized approach to care.

What are these levels?

Let’s take a look.

Definition of Hospice Care

To understand the levels of hospice care, it’s first important to understand what the service is and what it offers, regardless of the level of care a patient chooses.

Hospice provides the highest level of care to San Diego patients faced with a terminal illness. A doctor must prescribe hospice care and determine that the patient has a diagnosis that means their life expectancy is six months or less if the disease follows its normal course.

A patient can live longer than six months and remain on hospice care, but their doctor must continue to prescribe the service as necessary and beneficial. As long as a physician continues to prescribe hospice care as medically necessary, it is typically covered at 100% by Medicare, MediCal, VA benefits and private insurance providers.

Hospice offers San Diego patients a layered approach. It meets their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The goal is comfort, pain management and quality of life.

Four Levels of Hospice Care

Routine Home Hospice Care

For most families, when they think of hospice care in San Diego, they think of the routine homecare scenario. This is when nurses, chaplains, hospice social workers and trained volunteers visit the patient at home and provide more intermittent care.

Nursing visits are scheduled on a regular basis with a nurse case manager overseeing the case. Visits are scheduled at times that are convenient for the family. They may be short or long, depending on the patient’s needs.

Hospice social workers also assist the family in connecting with community resources that may benefit them. These could include support groups, legal professionals to assist with wills or power of attorney documents, educational resources and care support services.

Routine hospice care in San Diego also provides the patient with pain management medications and any medical supplies necessary to help the patient manage any side effects associated with their medical diagnosis and live more comfortably.

Continuous Pain Management and Crisis Care

Crisis care is provided when the patient is in a more distressful situation. During this time, they are often in need of more constant pain management support. Hospice nurses visit the patient for several hours at a time or even overnight (typically if death is imminent). Their goal is to get pain symptoms under control and help the patient to feel more comfortable.

Hospice crisis care in San Diego is short-term, meaning that the patient utilizes this service for a short period of time, until their life ends or with the goal of returning to more intermittent care once they are comfortable.

This level of very hands-on care often givers family caregivers the “permission” they need to step back from providing care and focus solely on spending time with their loved one.

In-Patient Hospice Care

Hospice care at home is the most common approach for San Diego patients. Remaining at home for as long as possible is also a goal that many seniors share. However, there are times when symptoms intensify to a point where the family requests some more intensive measures. In these cases, a short-term admission is one option. If an admission happens, the goal is to return the patient home, unless the patient requests something different, so stays are typically short-term.

In-patient hospice care is also appropriate for a senior who is living in an assisted living or board and care facility and wishes to remain there throughout the course of their illness.

Typically, when in-patient care is agreed upon, the goal is to stabilize the patient just enough to return home. However, in some cases, the person chooses to remain in the facility for their final days.

Respite Care and Hospice

When a loved one requires end of life care, some family caregivers decide to take on the majority of their care needs alone. While honorable, this decision is also quite taxing emotionally and physically. To give family caregivers an occasional break, hospice providers in San Diego offer respite care.

Respite care assists the family by providing support and supervision to the patient. Many families find it beneficial when family caregivers are not at home or otherwise engaged. Hourly or around the clock respite care is available. Medical care, nursing support, emotional and spiritual support are all components of this type of care.

Respite care in a facility is sometimes coordinated by a home hospice care provider. It’s useful if a family needs short-term, around the clock support for their loved one due to travel or other commitments. In some cases, this is a covered expense through Medicare, MediCal, private insurance and VA benefits.

Determining the Right Level of Hospice

Hospice care is a personalized service. That means the right level of hospice care can vary from patient to patient. A hospice nurse case manager and your loved one’s physicians are the best people to consult in order to determine the right level of hospice care. The right level might also change as your loved one moves through the course of their illness. Should that happen, your San Diego hospice care provider can adjust care, as necessary.

Salus Hospice of San Diego is an accredited hospice care provider. We offer information and resources that can help your family to make the right end of life care choices. If you’re family is coping with a terminal diagnosis, call us anytime. We’re ready to assist in determining if one of the four levels of hospice care are right for you and your loved one.