LiveSmart: Hospice Care – Why Calling Sooner is Better

[Article by Paul Heasley, MD FACP HMDC, Chief Medical Officer for The Community Hospice.]

If you or someone you love is dealing with a terminal illness or injury, the holidays can be an emotional time with many unknowns. As you gather with family members, perhaps it’s also a good time to discuss important health care services that can bring comfort during difficult times.

Hospice care is considered the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing the end of life. Many people incorrectly think hospice is for patients with only days or hours to live. However, hospice is a Medicare-covered benefit designed to help support patients and their caregivers for six months.

Even so, fully one-third of referrals to Community Hospice in the Capital Region are made within seven days of death. That means 30 percent of patients and caregivers referred could have benefitted from almost six additional months of help and support at home.

According to the National Opinion Research Center, hospice care (at any length of stay) gives patients, family members, and caregivers increased satisfaction and quality of life, improved pain control, reduced physical and emotional distress, and reduced prolonged/complicated grief.

Where can you get help? The Community Hospice.
As the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization notes, hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.

The Community Hospice, a member of St. Peter’s Health Partners, serves patients and families in eight Capital Region counties. We admit 4,000 patients a year and care for an average daily census of 615 patients at home and in nursing homes, adult living facilities, hospitals, our hospice inpatient unit at St. Peter’s Hospital, and three community “comfort care” homes.

  • Each patient is assigned a multidisciplinary care team: RN, aides, social worker, spiritual counselors, volunteers, complementary therapists (e.g., massage, music), and hospice physicians who create a comprehensive plan of care including input from the patient’s primary care physician.
  • Hospice care, including bereavement services, is of no cost to patients and families.
  • Hospice provides all medications pertaining to the hospice diagnosis and related conditions, all equipment and necessary ancillary services in addition to all hospice staff visits, and also provides 24/7 on-call coverage as part of the hospice benefit.
  • Hospice care helps patients avoid unwanted, unnecessary, and non-beneficial hospitalizations, treatments, and interventions in accordance with the patient’s goals, wishes, and advanced directives.

If you or someone you love is facing a terminal diagnosis, don’t wait to seek support. We are here to help, including having conversations with patients and families to help them clarify their goals and wishes.

To learn more or to ask about a referral, call The Community Hospice at 518-724-0242 or visit us at

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