Hospice should help patients stay comfortable and peaceful during their last days, whether that’s in their own homes or at a hospital, but many times, hospice nurses and other staff are delayed, do not show up, or fail to answer calls. An investigation by TIME found that, in 2014, a dismaying 8 percent of hospice doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists did not visit their patients for crucial care the last two days of their lives. Family members and friends had to watch in horror, helplessly, as their loved ones die in pain.

One patient waited for six days to receive his prescription pain medication and was in extreme pain. His supervising doctor and his nurse never responded or visited. In addition, the patient was denied a catheter. His wife and son had to cut away urine-soaked clothing and bedding in an effort to provide him comfort so as not to move him.

In another instance, an on-duty nurse muted her phone, which caused her to miss 16 calls for help for pain medication. The husband of the woman who made the repeated calls died in his wife’s arms while in severe pain.

I, myself, had a client with a local hospice, five months ago, and it was a terrible situation.  The hospice was supposed to arrange for a drain to be placed in the patient to drain fluid from the abdomen.  On three different occasions the hospice left the family hanging, saying they would schedule the procedure and never did.  When the drain was finally placed the hospice nurse never came out to drain the excess fluid. I had to drain the patient and do the sterile dressing change twice. The worst thing is that the hospice social worker was supposed to come out and tell the patient that he was in fact dying. They never did. The patient died with out even being told he was dying. He never got a chance to say goodbye to his family and loved ones.

Within the past five years, complaints were filed with 759 hospices for failing to provide end-of-life services they promised. Hospices are rarely punished for their poor care. Many times, hospices are merely required to promise to do better.

Hospices help 1.6 million patients and their families a year. State health agencies provide licenses to hospices. Federal Medicare officials and private accreditation groups oversee hospices. However, hospices do not have any punishments short of termination, which would bar the hospice from receiving payment from Medicare. In this manner, dying patients would lose their services. Out of 4,453 hospices, half were shown to have deficiencies between January 1, 2012 and February 1, 2017, and 17 of those hospices were terminated.

If you have found yourself in a similar situation, where a hospice has failed to provide the proper care and treatment, please contact us! We can help recommend alternate hospice groups and offer support at this crucial time.

For more information, please see the original TIME article here.

Our Patient Advocate Office is ever just an email or phone call away: 703-222-1300 – we’re happy to help! A phone call is free and it could save a life or reduce a large hospital bill.

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