Frequently Asked Questions
What is hospice?
When cure is no longer possible, hospice provides the kind of care most people say they want – care focused on comfort and quality of life. Some people think that hospice means you are “giving up” or “there’s nothing left for us to do”. We don’t give up – we just change the focus of the plan. The goal with hospice becomes care which emphasizes comfort and dignity, and we work diligently to aggressively manage pain and other symptoms. The hospice philosophy is to care for the whole person, meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, and to meet the support needs of the family and loved ones as well. At Burke Hospice and Palliative Care (BHPC) we pride ourselves in being driven by our mission and have been providing compassionate care in Burke and surrounding counties for more than 35 years. Our goal is foremost that patients live out the remainder of their lives, regardless of timeframe, in a manner that is meaningful to them.
Who qualifies for hospice?
Any person living with a life-limiting illness may be eligible for hospice care. Hospice services are not solely based upon a patient’s diagnosis, but prognosis as well. BHPC cares for patients with a variety of end-stage illnesses, which includes, but is not limited to:
Pulmonary disease (COPD)
Stroke or coma
Parkinson’s disease or other neurological conditions
Who can make a referral to hospice?
Referrals can be made by anyone—a hospital, family member, friend, nurse, physician or even a patient.
Where are hospice services provided?
In most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home. “Home” may be the patient’s residence, a loved one’s home or a care facility like a nursing home or an assisted living facility. BHPC’s commitment to patients and their families is that we will make every effort to provide the support necessary to allow patients, if they choose, to spend their final days at home, with dignity and surrounded by the people they love.
In the nursing home or other facility, hospice adds to the care provided by the nursing home team. The same services offered to patients at home are also offered to patients in facilities. The nursing home staff administers the care and services ordinarily provided by the patient’s family and the hospice team works with the facility staff to ensure pain and symptom relief, and to provide emotional and spiritual support.
Sometimes, patients need a more intense level of care provided in a hospital setting or at the Burke Palliative Care Center, BHPC’s short-term inpatient facility.
What services are provided in hospice?
Once admitted to hospice, care is coordinated by the hospice team and services are offered based on ongoing team evaluations and are unique to each patient and family. Services include:
Medical Services - Hospice Medical Directors partner with your physician for oversight of care orders.
Nursing Services - Visits for evaluation and support provided on intermittent schedules, as the patient needs them. Services can be increased with special needs or during times of crisis.
On-Call Services - Hospice provides 24 hours/day, 7 days a week On-Call Services. A nurse will be available to answer questions or provide visits as needed.
Social Workers - Visits and phone calls help with emotional support, caregiving support, financial/legal concerns, advance directives, organ and body donations and preparing for funeral/memorial services.
Medications - Medicines necessary for the terminal illness are paid for by Hospice.
Equipment & Supplies - Durable medical equipment (DME) and supplies necessary for the terminal illness and prescribed by the physician may be provided.
Nursing Assistants/Aides - May help with personal care needed by the patient, and light housekeeping.
Spiritual Care – Non-denominational chaplains are available to visit and provide spiritual support according to your needs.
Counselors - Grief & Loss staff are available to provide counseling to the patient and any family member, prior to death, as well as up to 13 months following the death. Our Grief & Loss program includes counseling, mailings, support groups and phone support.
Volunteers - Trained Volunteers are offered, if available, to provide companionship, emotional support, homemaking tasks, and other supportive services on a short-term basis.
Therapies - Sometimes other therapies (physical, occupational and speech), when approved by Hospice, may be necessary in the palliation of the disease.
Is hospice care covered by private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid?
Hospice services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances, and core services are provided regardless of ability to pay. A portion of funding is derived from grants, gifts, donations and memorials. For Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, benefits are covered 100% for services related to the terminal illness.
What is palliative care?
Palliative [PAL-yuh-tiv] Care is a consultative service that helps patients dealing with serious and debilitating illnesses manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Unlike hospice care, palliative care services are available to people who are not terminally ill, but are facing an illness that interferes with their ability to cope with and enjoy daily life. Or for those not yet ready for hospice care. Palliative care is intended to give patients comfort by relieving the pain, symptoms, and stress of serious illness, and is appropriate for anyone, at any age, at any point in the illness, including those seeking curative treatment, and is often used along with other treatments and therapies to help patients manage difficulties that come with chronic illness. Palliative care services are provided in patients’ homes, in long-term-care facilities, or in hospitals.
To learn more about the Burke Palliative Care team, read our Palliative Care page.
Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?
Usually not. Our goal is to help patients be as comfortable as possible and alert as they desire.
If I use pain medications, will I become addicted?
Narcotic medications used as prescribed do not cause an addiction, but the use of these medications does need to be monitored by you and your physician. Patients prescribed pain medications who have concerns about addiction should talk with their doctor. It is important for pain symptoms to be adequately treated. Patients can ensure that pain control will not become a problem by ensuring they are also treating pain with non-narcotic treatments and only taking pain medications as necessary. If patients have a history of problems with addiction to any substance, they should discuss this with the doctor. Patients with addictions issues or concerns have the benefit of working with our physician who has specialized training in pain control.
Does hospice hasten death?
No. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the end-of-life process. Research has shown that patients who receive hospice care live on average 29 days longer than those who did not receive hospice care and chose other medical interventions.
Must I have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order in place to qualify for hospice services?
No. While many patients given a limited life expectancy do not desire heroic measures in an attempt to restore life (i.e. CPR, defibrillation or ventilator), it is NOT necessary to have a DNR in place to receive hospice care.
Aren't all hospices the same?
No. There are a number of both for-profit and non-profit hospices serving Burke County and the surrounding area. These hospices differ widely in the services they offer and the quality of care they provide. Burke Hospice and Palliative Care is the only licensed hospice which is located Burke County. We offer the only Hospice House convenient to Burke residents. Our home office in Valdese allows us fast response times to patients from Jonas Ridge to Hildebran, from Linville to Lower Fork. We have more than 35 years of experience serving Burke County residents and our neighbors in nearby counties. Ask for Burke Hospice and Palliative Care by name!
Is hospice care only for cancer patients?
Although many people believe hospices were founded to serve cancer patients, modern hospices serve people with any serious diagnosis with a limited prognosis. In fact, only 37% of hospice patients nationwide have cancer. Today, we care for people with heart disease, Alzheimer's, emphysema, AIDS-related conditions, and many other diagnoses.
What if my conditions improve?
If improvement in the condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged. If your condition improves or your disease seems to be in remission, you may be able to leave Burke Hospice and Palliative Care services and return to active therapy. In fact, about 15% of hospice patients actually improve so much they are discharged from services. Likewise, if you decide Burke Hospice is not for you, or you would like to seek more aggressive treatment, you can always be voluntarily discharged.