Archive for May 2016

Hospice Care and Care Costs the Focus of Recent Study

Posted on May 19, 2016

Group of seniors in nursing facility

Recently, the true cost of hospice care has been a point of debate. Not only is the cost of care a concern for individuals and their families, but it's also a concern for government officials who must regulate the money spent through Medicare and Medicaid and ensure it's being spent honestly and with a valuable return. A recent study looked into how hospice care for nursing home patients impacted their care costs. Here's an overview of the findings from the research team from Indiana University's Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute. 

The team began by examining 2,510 long stay nursing home residents, of which a third received hospice care. According to their research, age, race and gender had no bearing on the findings concerning care costs and hospice care. 

They concluded that, even in cases where hospice care is provided for a prolonged amount of time, hospice services don't increase care costs for nursing home residents over the last six months of life. 

The primary factor that appears to allow hospice services to be administered without significantly raising care costs is that hospice patients are typically able to avoid costly hospitilization and the post-acute care that follows it late in life. 

While many may believe that hospice is given to patients in their own homes, and that is often the case, hospice care also takes place in nursing homes with specially trained hospice nurses and other staff come to the facility the same way they'd come to a patient's home. There are some additional obstacles and concerns when administering hospice and palliative care in nursing facilities. Namely, that it can be difficult to determine when residents with some diagnoses enter into the last few months of their life. 

These obstacles may be why many have questioned whether Medicare's hospice benefit is being used appropriately specifically for nursing facilty residents. The research conducted by Indiana University, however, found no evidence of cost shifting or dishonest spending. 

In most cases, there was little to no difference found between those in nursing facilities that elected to begin hospice care, and those that decided to forego hospice care. Two exceptions, cancer patients and advanced dementia patients, were found to elect hospice care more often than average. These findings are consistent with hospice statistics for patients outside of nursing facilities, as well. 

It's also important to note that the individuals studies in this research were predominantly disproportionately poor, non-white, and had been characterized by high health care costs. These individuals are rarely included in healthcare utilization studies. 

If you have questions about whether or not hospice and palliative care is right for you or a loved one, please contact us at Cura-HPC in Tulsa, Oklahoma: 800-797-3839. 

The Importance of a Conversation About Death and Dying

Posted on May 11, 2016

Senior couple conversation

We often urge people to begin planning for end of life care, and researching care options like hospice and palliative care well before they or their loved ones actually need it. This way, your research can be conducted with less stress, and you can take your time interviewing medical professionals, discussing your options with your family, and ensuring you're making the right choices. That process typically begins with an open conversation about death and dying, which is a topic that many of us shy away from for as long as possible. Death isn't seen as a fun topic to discuss, but a conversation with your loved ones about your wishes, needs, and hopes is extremely valuable. Here are a few reasons why. 

Make choices 

There are typically two groups that are in desperate need of a frank, open discussion about death. First is the individuals who have thought about it themselves, made some decisions, but haven't communicated those choices to their family or doctor. This group risks becoming ill and not being able to tell those around them how they'd like to be treated. The other group is the individuals who have completely avoided thinking about death, end of life medical care, and other arrangements. This group risks creating a stressful, confusing experience for their loved ones when they near death. Both groups need to plan a discussion about their death, but what should be discussed and decided? Run through these common questions and communicate your choices: 

  • Do I have a will in place? 
  • Do I have plans or specific wishes for my funeral? 
  • What type of medical care do I want to receive? 
  • Do I want to be an organ donor? 
  • Have I planned for financial and tax issues?
  • Am I properly insured? 
  • Have I put these wishes in writing, and communicated them to my family and physician? 

Find opportunities

Thinking about these topics and discussing them isn't only about planning for your death. There's also the benefit that thinking along these lines can illuminate opportunities that help you live better. You may begin to put more emphasis on having buket list type experiences. You may stop putting off that once in a lifetime trip, or finally learn a skill you've been dreaming about. Talking about death and dying can help you see clearly what regrets you'd have if your life ended today. If that leads to amazing experiences, or reconnecting with loved ones you've lost touched with, it makes your conversation about death well worth it. 

Reduce stress

When an individual gets ill, it's often a stressful time for everyone involved. Making these plans ahead of time, and discussing them with your loved ones, greatly reduces these stressful moments for you and your family. Having this conversation can even help to identify concerns that you or others may already be stressed about. Once identified, you can be sure to make plans and alleviate that stress. Then, once your decisions are needed, your family will already have plans in place and can spend more time with you and less time scrambling to make arrangements. 

To learn about hospice and palliative care in Oklahoma, contact us at Cura-HPC: 800-797-3839. 

The Mediterranean Diet Shows Promising Health Benefits

Posted on May 04, 2016

Salmon with vegetables

You likely already know that your diet has a significant effect on your health. Not only does the food we eat influence how we feel today, but it also influences our long term health. Research conducted by a European project, NU-AGE, recently looked into the Mediterranean diet and it's health benefits in the long term. Their findings suggest that sticking to a strict Mediterranean diet could slow down the aging process and keep bones healthier as we age. 

First, a few notes on the Mediterranean diet. The most notable emphasis is a limitation of red meat. Those following the diet include red meat in their meals only a handful of times each month. Instead, fish is eaten on a regular basis, especially species that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which includes salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna and trout. Additional protein is taken from legumes and nuts. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are also prioritized in each meal. Butter is ideally removed completely and healthy fats like olive oil are used as alternatives. Salt is also removed or extremely limited and food is instead flavored with herbs and spices. 

Previous studies have revealed that this type of diet reduces the risk of many varieties of heart disease, but NU-AGE also concluded that C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker linked with ageing, significantly decreased. The rate of bone loss for those with osteoporosis was also reduced. 

To reach these findings researchers recruited 1142 participants over the age of 65 across five European countries, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and the UK. Each individual was instructed to follow a personally tailored Mediterranean style diet. 

In addition to findings directly related to health, researchers also learned of significant differences between nutrition education that exists between residents of different countries and in different socio-economic groups. For example, more than 70 percent of French and British participants responded that their nutrition knowledge was high, whereas only about 30 percent said the same in Poland. Participants from the UK and Netherlands scored the highest on the understanding of nutrition information and food labels, while Italian participants scored the lowest. 

While this particular study exposed differences in European countries, similar conclusions can be drawn about different groups in the US. There certainly exists a different understanding and trust of food labels in different parts of the country. This lack of nutrition education can increase the likelihood of unhealthy diets, which raises the risks for a number of health issues later in life. 

At Cura-HPC, we provide hospice and palliative care to those with life-limiting illnesses. To learn more about the services we provide and gain insight into whether they're right for you or a loved one, contact us at (800)797-3839.