Finding quality hospice care for a terminally ill loved one is often a difficult but necessary step for families. As individuals approach the end of life, hospice care offers patients physical, emotional, and spiritual support. “Moreover, it provides much-needed relief to family members. It’s essential to understand the available options for inpatient and residential hospice care. This is particularly true for families in Calgary navigating this profound shift. The goal of this guide is to provide Calgarians with the knowledge necessary to access these vital services.
Comprehending the Landscape of Hospice Care in Calgary
Despite being a leader in palliative care services, Alberta has only 97 hospice beds across nine facilities. It is significantly lower than the recommended national standard of over two hospice beds per 100,000 residents. The population in Calgary continues to boom The limited availability of beds strains the Calgary Hospice Services system.
The process starts with the patient’s family physician. They make the initial referral to hospice Calgary and its centralized intake. This takes place after determining eligibility. Going through the complex healthcare system to access hospice care takes considerable effort. With support from physicians and guidance on the facilities, families gain much-needed care and comfort.
Navigating the Referral Process
Understanding the referral process becomes imperative, given the limited bed capacity. In the Calgary Zone, only two types of people can make direct hospice referrals:
- Specialized Palliative Home Care Case Managers
- Palliative Care Consultants
They determine eligibility based on criteria such as the following:
- The patient has less than three months to live
- The patient needs higher-level care than community care programs provide
Patients and their families cannot directly refer to hospice care. Instead, they start by referring the patient to specialized palliative home care. This falls under Alberta Health Services. The assigned case manager then determines the need for hospice beds. This enables streamlined coordination of care between different programs. Specialized resources that remove access barriers are beneficial for families navigating challenging times.
Challenges and Solutions in Accessing Hospice Care
Calgary’s centralized intake referral system is complex. Terminally ill patients face difficulties accessing facilities due to chronic bed shortages. However, understanding these challenges enables families to better navigate the system.
Key Barriers and Issues
- A limited and fixed number of funded hospice beds creates scarcity. Frequently, waiting periods surpass the recommended guideline of 48 hours.
- Centralized intake process and eligibility verification requirements create delays in bed assignment.
- Families experience distress when unable to access hospice care in time near end-of-life. The same experience applies when transferred between many facilities. It disrupts continuity of care.
- Rural patients face barriers in accessing city hospitals and hospice centers far from home. They need to travel and experience relocation stress.
- There is a lack of standardized data and reporting on hospice use and efficacy. This hampers ongoing service improvements.
- Increase provincial healthcare funding allocation for building more hospice facilities. This is to align with population needs. Could double or triple capacity.
- Streamline intake processes leveraging technology to speed up referrals, verification, and bed assignment. This improves use.
- Expand rural hospice models through partnerships. It enables community-based end-of-life care closer to home when possible.
- Implement centralized data analytics across Calgary hospices. They can track key use indicators and patient/family feedback. Identify gaps in service.
- Public education campaigns promoting early palliative care interventions for terminal patients. Ensures smooth transitions to hospice programs when required instead of urgent admissions.
Overcoming access barriers broadens options for families navigating challenging end-of-life journeys.
Hospice Care Services and Support Systems
Once hospice admission occurs, Calgary facilities supply comprehensive 24/7 on-site nursing. They provide personal care services in a home-like environment for patients. This is particularly beneficial for individuals requiring round-the-clock support. The facilities’ specialized interprofessional teams deliver holistic palliative care. It is catered to the dying patient’s unique needs. Their team consists of physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual care practitioners, and volunteers.
The following operate Calgary’s four hospice residences:
- The Foothills Medical Centre
- Rockyview General Hospital
- South Health Campus
- Hospice Calgary
The compassionate care and emotional support provided offer comfort to the patients. It provides much-needed respite for family members during an enormously difficult time.
A Family’s Guide to Preparing for Hospice Care
For patients and families, facing the end-of-life transition elicits intense emotions. Proper practical and emotional preparation assists in easing distress for patients and caregivers alike.
For preparation, families can:
- Tour hospice facilities beforehand to understand the environment and services offered. This includes private patient rooms, family lounges, gardens, catering areas, and multi-faith spaces.
- Clarify expectations around physical care needs with facility staff. This can be accomplished through an intake meeting a few weeks before admission. For example, the lifting capabilities of hospice staff and equipment availability for mobility. You can also include nutrition, hygiene, and symptom management.
- Understand visiting procedures and hours. Options for overnight family stays may exist if capacity allows. Discuss bringing personal items to create a more home-like and comfortable space for the patient.
- Inquire about specialized services like the following:
- Music/art therapy
- Volunteer activities like baking or crafts
- End-of-life event planning tailored to the patient’s wishes
These personalized touches enhance the quality of life during hospice stays.
On the emotional front, families can:
- Seek individual or group counseling sessions to process grief and address anxieties over losing a loved one. They will assist you in strengthening your coping skills as a caregiver. Sessions are often available through hospice resources.
- Join hospice-linked peer support groups. You’ll be able to connect with and learn from others experiencing end-of-life transitions. It reduces feelings of isolation.
- Identify post-death logistical needs, such as:
- Funeral arrangements
- Estate executor planning
- Distribution of possessions
Documenting these details reduces the burden on grieving families later.
- Discuss expectations of medical interventions, quality of life, and dying process with physicians. This will aid in aligning care goals. Outlining wishes through advanced care directives provides clarity for substitute decision-makers.
Financial and Legal Considerations
Funding concerns may also arise when considering hospice care options. In Alberta, hospice care is funded by Provincial Healthcare. It is for Canadian citizens and permanent residents with valid Alberta Healthcare cards. Individual facilities may have specific documentation requirements families should confirm beforehand.
Additionally, draft advanced care directives, wills, and appoint legal decision-makers. This will reduce conflicts for grieving families. Proper estate planning additionally eases stress. This is applicable when making difficult choices about medical interventions and end-of-life care.
What are the eligibility criteria for hospice care in Calgary?
The main requirements are as follows:
- An Alberta Healthcare card
- Terminal illness diagnosis
- Less than three months prognosis
Referring physicians or case managers check for needs related to pain/symptom management. They check for caregiver respite or terminal care that exceeds community program capacity.
How can families navigate the financial aspects of hospice care?
Hospice care costs are covered by public health insurance for eligible Alberta residents. This reduces financial concerns. Families should ensure the patient’s personal documents, including the following, are updated:
- Alberta Healthcare card
- Advanced care directive
- Estate planning
What should families expect during the hospice care experience?
At hospices, families can participate in the following activities and services:
- Patient’s daily activities
- Collaborate with the care team
- Access counseling resources
- Enjoy calm spaces like gardens
- Make meaningful end-of-life memories with loved ones
Facilities also provide guidance to families on the next steps after the patient’s death.
Accessing quality end-of-life hospice care helps alleviate the suffering of dying patients. At the same time, they provide essential support for grieving families. The system in Calgary poses challenges in accessing services. Understanding referral pathways, service offerings, and resources can empower Calgarians. This will enhance palliative care during terminal illness. Equally important, family preparation and engagement bring peace, closure, and celebration to a loved one’s life.