Connecticut care givers who would prefer hospice care for elderly relatives but are forced by circumstances to place them in a nursing home may soon have another alternative – hospice care facilities located throughout the state that can provide 24-hour care for a limited number of people who are in the final stages of life.
Hospice care is different from nursing home care – especially for nursing home patients who are on Medicaid Title XIX – in that the hospice patients receive far more personalized attention. That may not set well with some people, but it is true; welfare patients don’t get the same type of care that is offered by hospice organizations.
A proposal now before the Public Health Committee – HB 5499, Regulations Related to Hospice Care – asks the legislature to set the framework for establishing 24-hour hospice facilities. This appears to be a step beyond the services offered by adult day care centers, which enable working families to keep elderly relatives in the community by providing elder care during working hours.
In adult day care facilities the elderly person is dropped off in the morning to spend all or part of their day in the company of people with skills in elder care who can provide everything from recreation to skilled medical care. After work the elderly client is picked up by family members and is returned to the home environment.
Hospice care is specialized in that it is directed toward terminal patients, but it offers a full range of services to the extended family as well as the patient. Hospice care can include medical assistance through doctor and nursing visits, nutritional advice, home care assistance, social workers, and religious counseling. Organizations that support HB 5499 want to make this assistance available throughout the state, for dying patients and their families.
The proposed regulations would preserve hospital standard of care set in Connecticut three decades ago, proponents say, and they also would establish regulatory oversight. The types of services offered by the hospice facilities could be tailored to their respective communities.
Proponents of the new legislation say that the need for specialized care has been clearly demonstrated, but the delay in implementation already has negatively impacts such as the closing of the Rosenthal Hospice Residence in Stamford because the existing regulations do not allow for hospice residences.
Plans to build non-profit hospices in Danbury and Southeastern Connecticut are in jeopardy because the existing regulations do not recognize hospice residences, they say. Supporters say the proposed revised regulations would allow the hospices in Danbury and Southeastern Connecticut to build residences with 12 or fewer beds in areas that would be accessible for families and patients to stay in their communities.
With our elderly population expanding by huge percentages and so much of our state and federal budgets paying for Medicare and Medicaid it seems prudent to explore every possible option t provide alternative and cost effective services.
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