Discussing hospice care and what it means


NEW ORLEANS — Former Governor Edwin Edwards announced this week that he’s starting hospice care at his home in Gonzales.

Often, when people hear hospice care, it’s common to think end of life is imminent.

Edwards downplayed that idea calling his decision “good and convenient care.” Ultimately, hospice care is different for each patient.

As a loved one enters hospice care, it’s to make that person comfortable as they receive less aggressive treatment. It’s the care Heart of Hospice New Orleans helps families navigate.

“Hospice is very encompassing and very focused on everything with the patient and what’s going on with their prognosis,” said Amy Clemson with the Heart of Hospice.

There are four levels of hospice care:

  • Routine care at home where a patient is most comfortable and familiar
  • Continuous care with around the clock nursing
  • Inpatient hospice care when a patient’s symptoms can no longer be managed at home
  • Respite care which allows the caregiver, often a loved one, time to take a break while the patient receives around the clock symptom management

Wendy LaCaze with Heart of Hospice said, “The hospice benefit includes a medical team, a physician, nursing, CNA’s, social workers, a Chaplin and volunteer services are all included.”

The focus of hospice care is not to cure the underlying illness. The goal is to provide the highest quality of life for that person’s remaining time.

“We were never born with an expiration date and so, we just have to go off of what physicians tell us and what our body tells us,” Clemson said.

There is no timetable on how long someone could be on hospice care.

“We definitely focus on symptom management of our patients and symptom management could be physical pain, it could be emotional pain, it could be spiritual pain,” LaCaze said. “We also focus holistically on the caregivers and we make sure as part of our plan of care that they are involved. We want to provide the care to our patients and their loved ones the way that they deserve and desire to be cared for.”

According to the Heart of Hospice, it’s important for families to have tough conversations before a loved one needs hospice or palliative care.

Discuss and write a will.

Questions like what type of medical treatment do you want, who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to and if you’re willing to be an organ donor need to be discussed.

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