HospiceCare – Medicare – Patient Care – Collapses for Hospice Patient, Mike MacDonald last month.
My hospice experiences have been an overwhelmingly positive, including my own mother’s outstanding care from one in Gig Harbor. Mike’s experience happened in Maine – and makes me wonder how many other hospice patients around the country were and are caught in this latest stress fiasco for terminal patients and their family?
Greetings! Last month Mike MacDonald reached his six month Hospice Care and was ‘discharged.” Mike and his wife, Pat, were left hanging without medical insurance, no oxygen, medications, nothing to pay the doctor or hospital should he need one. The EFFORTS COPD community rallied to help.
Mike and Pat managed to work through their failed Hospice system, but the lingering question is will it happen to us when the time comes? Have patient safeguards been set into place?
One day it will be our turn for Hospice – How is
Kitsap County Hospice doing? With Harrison’s
hospice announcement recently in this newspaper, Kitsap County now
has two for choice.
The Hospice patient and family deserve Hospice CARE – not a toss without medical coverage to sink or sink.
Following is Mike’s failed Hospice story update:
“Hello friends — A quickie note this time.
For those following my odyssey of hospice-care to no-care, I am pleased to post that all of my prior Medicare access has been totally restored as of June 18. My hospice had been “paused” on May 28 with the intention that I would re-enter Medicare on May 29 and return to hospice when I got a little sicker (my doctor’s crystal ball said that date was most likely to be July 23rd lol). We of course had the foul-up where my Medicare/CMS records weren’t properly updated resulting in my having no coverage (prescription, doctor, hospital or DME) for anything related to my lungs. I am still waiting on the wheelchair to be replaced.
Thanks again to all who wrote/called their congress reps, etc. I was touched and appreciative. We see over and over again what a warm community this is where so many of us rise to help each other often in spite of our own illnesses.
We had a visit yesterday from VNA of Southern Worcester County — a small VNA office based here in Webster, MA with a satellite office in Auburn, MA that provides palliative and hospice care services. As of yesterday I entered their palliative care program. My situation is not normal for them…they most typically step in following a hospital admission. In theory, they will evaluate me for re-entry into hospice services when the time is appropriate. In fact, the “in-take” nurse that was with me yesterday wanted to refer me for an evaluation right then but my wife wouldn’t hear of it (more on that below) and I think it’s premature anyway.
My regular VNA nurse — whom I haven’t met yet — will stop in today. Normally, there would be daily visits initially settling back to 3 times a week when appropriate. I’ve already expressed my wishes that we talk more like 2 times a week. They would be responsible for palliative care which is essentially “comfort” care but not quite so much as in hospice. That’s a little murky: while under hospice, drugs are often dispensed in a manner that’s not healthy over the long term with the theory being that the patient is dying already and so longer-term consequences aren’t as important. Under palliative care, they do care more about the longer-term consequences and there isn’t necessarily any assumption about death. In my case, the nurse and the doctor’s office will have to work that out but some of my drug dosages are probably already into the areas of unhealthy.
To my surprise, this *is* being covered under Medicare. CMS has tightened access to at-home services with the goal being of reducing in-home Medicare expenditures by 14% over the next 4 years. Learning that I seem to qualify for a host of in-home services comes as a very pleasant surprise. I can get an in-home health aid to help me bathe apparently — not that I want anyone to help me that way. I am eligible for occupational therapy which I believe for me means learning how to get around the home, how to conserve energy, etc. I don’t know that I need or want those services either but I’ll be open-minded. They also talked about music therapy to my surprise…I would be likely to use that.
We had entered this with the intention of hiring a “private duty nurse” paying out of pocket to lighten the load on my wife, Pat. I was a little concerned because whereas Pat was talking about 2 hours a week, I suspected 2 hours in-home care was probably more like 4 hours a week after factoring in travel, time talking to my doctor’s office, etc. I could easily see this running $1000 a month. No expense would be too high as far as Pat is concerned…she was really traumatized badly by the disaster with the last hospice organization (VNA Care Network which covers most of central and eastern Massachusetts). Pat actually objected initially when we talked about billing expressing a preference to pay this out of pocket and not involve Medicare at all for fear that they would screw things up so badly again. She’s really quite emotional about this — and understandably so — but I also think there is no danger at this point because we’re not signing away anything (whereas entry into hospice signs away access to care for the terminal illness to the hospice provider).
This does not bode well for when it’s time to go the hospice route. I don’t think Pat will go along with that again but for now I have to wait and cross that bridge when the time comes.
Physically, I’m not doing all that great though I think I am a little better the past couple of days. One of the ironic things about the May 28 discharge from hospice was that I was already sliding into an exacerbation on that date. At times, I’ve been fairly ill since then. Still, I don’t think I am near death. I wouldn’t be shocked if that changed 3 weeks from now but I also wouldn’t be shocked if I was writing the same thing 6 months from now. My doctor feels I am dying but admits that I’m tougher than he had thought. I am definitely progressing in the illness and not happy with how compromised I am in my ability to do much of anything.
By way of comparison, I have a friend who I started working with in 1989. We worked closely for 7 or 8 years and remained in touch since. He’s 54 years old and for 2 years has been battling an aggressive bone cancer. He’s been through 5 surgeries now including the replacement of his right pelvis with a bone from a cadaver. As he expressed to me a couple of days ago via email, he really shouldn’t be alive but he’s taking every day he can get and is planning on getting a tattoo next month. I’m not one for tats but good for him. When I think of my own illness, I have only to compare myself to people like him and realize that I’m still a pretty fortunate person…this could be so much worse. I have the means and the support system to deal with this; beyond that, I don’t have much control except for maintaining a positive attitude. For the most part, I do just that.
Thanks for listening and sorry for my blatant lie at the top of
this note…I really *thought* it’d be brief.
Thanks for listening…. Sharon O’Hara, COPDer -firstname.lastname@example.org