What Happens During A Hospice Referral Visit?

By Lisa

Making the initial phone call is often the most difficult part of hospice care. As a patient or family member, you’ll get the most comprehensive care by contacting a hospice organization when you learn the illness is incurable. You don’t need your doctor’s permission to contact us; we’ll arrange for the physician’s order approving hospice care so we can begin to care for you or your loved one as soon as possible.

We have staff members that specialize in meeting with families to share information about our services.  Recently, I rode along with Michelle*, a hospice nurse, as she traveled to meet with a potential patient named Judy.

Judy* greeted us warmly as we arrived. She led us into her kitchen, where her husband, Mike*, was seated at one end of the table. His face showed concern, uncertainty and a feeling of helplessness.

“Judy, will you share with me why you contacted Hospice?” Michelle began by asking.

In a matter-of-fact tone, Judy shared her ten-year struggle with cancer. She and her family had endured multiple cycles of treatments and remission, as well as the emotional rollercoaster many patients feel when battling a long-term illness.

Now in her mid-80s, Judy’s doctor had recently told her there was nothing left to do; it was time to call Hospice.

“I’ve had a long life, and besides, I’m tired of being tired from the treatments all the time. I just want to spend time with my family, without worrying about the next treatment down the road,” Judy said. “Most of all, I just want to be at home.”

Michelle listened closely to Judy’s story, and expressed her empathy while also providing reassurance. She began explaining the basics of hospice care. Nursing assistants would provide Judy’s personal cares. Hospice nurses would provide pain and symptom management to ensure Judy’s comfort. The nurses would also show Mike how to provide the care Judy required on a day-to-day basis.

Michelle explained the role of the social worker, who could help Judy and Mike understand their insurance coverage, and other practical issues. She also explained that a chaplain would be available to provide spiritual support and a link to her faith community.

Next, Michelle explained to Judy and Mike about the role of the hospice volunteers, who would be available to visit with Judy and help with household tasks if she wished.

“Oh, goodness,” Judy said with a chuckle, “I have five children, and ten grandchildren; this past weekend, I couldn’t get them to leave! I definitely don’t need any more visitors.”

We shared a laugh with Judy, as Michelle reassured her that the choice was hers, while reiterating that volunteers would be available if Judy later needed them. Like all hospice services, volunteer visits would be tailored to Judy’s wants and needs.

Michelle then looked to Mike as she explained respite care services.

“It can be very draining on a caregiver to ‘give their all’ to a loved one 24 hours a day. If you need a break, respite care is available.”

I watched Mike as he slowly shook his head, “No, that won’t be necessary; I’ll take care of her.”

Judy shook her head in disagreement. “We’ll use it,” she said, her eyes tearing. She reached for Mike’s hand across the table. “We’ve cared for one another for nearly 60 years. While I’m still here, I want to know that you’re taking care of yourself, too.”

I was so moved by the love between the two of them, and touched that they were facing this phase in their lives with such care and concern for one another.

After Michelle answered more of Judy and Mike’s questions, the decision was made to start services as soon as possible.

As Michelle and I left Judy and Mike’s home that afternoon, emotions were running high. I could also sense their relief; relief that Judy’s symptoms would be managed, a sense of peace that she would be able to stay in her home as long as possible, and a sense of comfort knowing her end-of-life journey would be one of dignity and comfort.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

To schedule a referral visit, call (800) 237-4629 or contact us today. We will schedule a visit whenever and wherever is convenient for you and your family to talk about our services and how they might benefit you.  These consultations are free of charge and without obligation. From that point on, we will do the follow-up work for you including, contacting your physician, starting the necessary paperwork and arranging a nurse visit.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.