Frequently Asked Questions

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  • How much does hospice care cost? What can I expect to spend out of pocket for hospice care?
    Hospice care is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, with few, if any, out-of-pocket costs. Medicare covers the full scope of medical and support services provided by hospice. For a stay at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice will bill Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance for short-term respite and general inpatient care. A sliding scale fee will be applied if the person requires short term residential care. Care is considered residential if the patient does not qualify for respite or general inpatient care and is available on an extremely limited basis.
  • When is hospice care appropriate? Who qualifies?
    Hospice care is appropriate when the main goal of the patient’s care becomes comfort and relief of symptoms rather than finding a cure for their terminal illness. Patients are admitted based on guidelines provided by Medicare and Medicaid. The greatest benefits are gained by being in hospice care more than just a few days or weeks. But, statistically most patients are referred much later and on average receive care for a shorter period of time. A frequent comment we receive from families is “we wish we’d had hospice earlier.”The Medicare Hospice Benefit is available to all patients with the Medicare part A benefit and with a life expectancy of six months or less if the terminal illness or disease runs its normal course. The patient, of course, must choose to elect hospice, and the patient’s eligibility must be certified by a physician (most often the hospice’s medical director, together with the patient’s attending physician). In addition, hospice care is covered by most Medicaid and commercial insurance plans. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice accepts everyone who is certified to be living with a life limiting disease, regardless of the patient’s financial situation or insurance coverage.Deciding when hospice is appropriate can be a very difficult decision. Signs are often subtle. If you or a loved one has experienced any of the following, it may be time to consider hospice. You can give us a no-obligation call to set up an informal “meet and greet’ with our team to help you determine if the time might be right for you to consider hospice. These signs do not necessarily mean hospice will be right for you at this time, but they are good indicators that we could possibly help you or a loved one.

    • Multiple visits to the Emergency Room
    • Shortness of breath while resting
    • More than 3 falls over a 6 month period
    • Considerable weight loss
    • Majority of time spent in a chair or in bed
    • Severe pain or fatigue
    • Difficulty with personal care
    • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
    • Family members feel overwhelmed with providing daily care
    • Treatment for chronic disease is causing more pain and discomfort than improvement is worth to the patient
  • Who chooses the hospice company?
    The patient has the right to choose their hospice company. If you have any questions regarding a particular hospice, please discuss them with your physician.
  • I think hospice care may be right for us. What do I do now?
    Please give us a call, and we will be happy to walk you through the next steps. Everything is different for each patient. Our trained professionals can provide expert advice no matter where you are along the process and help the process move more smoothly.Generally speaking, once the patient has discussed their medical wishes with their physician, they together can choose which hospice company they prefer to provide the patient’s end of life care. At this time, the physician, patient or patient’s family can contact Shepherd’s Cove Hospice to begin the admission process.If there are any questions you have that have not been answered, please feel free to call our office toll free at 1-888-334-9336.
  • What services does Hospice provide?
    Hospice includes the services of an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals:

    • Physicians – Our Medical Director works with your personal physician to build a personalized plan of care. Our comprehensive team of medical professionals specialize in controlling pain and other symptoms of serious illness. Working together, our team develops a plan of care that is right for each patient’s individual situation and needs.
    • Nurses – Shepherd’s Cove Hospice nurses are experts at managing the needs of each patient and can serve as a valuable resource in educating family members on how to assist in caring for their loved one. Our specially trained and experienced nurses develop and manage a specialized plan of care for each patient, focusing on the patient’s individual needs and providing compassionate support to the entire family.
    • Hospice Care Aides – These members of the Shepherd’s Cove Hospice team provide personal care and help the patient and family with activities of daily living. They also provide companionship and valuable emotional support.
    • Social Workers – Our team of social workers coordinates community resources and helps the patient and family with non-medical concerns. The social workers can help comfort and give support to family members, plan for the future, assist with making financial arrangements and ease other emotional difficulties. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Social Workers coordinate the efforts of the entire team to provide a “Special Wish” to those living with a life-limiting illness.
    • Chaplains – These individuals work to help patients and families cope with spiritual questions and concerns, either directly or by coordinating services with the patient’s and family’s spiritual counselors.
    • Bereavement Staff – Shepherd’s Cove Hospice has personnel available to help patients and families deal with grief through each phase of the process.
    • Volunteers – These team members provide companionship and emotional support and offer help in a variety of ways, including office and Thrift Shoppe support.

    Hospice also provides medications, medical equipment and supplies related to the hospice prognosis and those necessary to promote comfort at home or in other hospice settings. Our caring staff is available at all times, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

  • When should patients and families consider hospice?
    After a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, patients and their families should consider their choices for care. A patient does not have to be bed-bound or critically ill to be registered for hospice care. A Shepherd’s Cove Hospice representative will be happy to talk with you about the hospice benefit, no strings attached and the sooner in the disease process the better so that we can assist in providing comfort as soon as it is needed!
  • Does accepting hospice care mean that we are giving up hope?
    Not at all. Hospice redefines hope and helps patients and their families reclaim the spirit of life. Hospice care focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life allowing them to make the most of the time they have. Hospice allows us the opportunity to prepare for death, and when possible, it allows patients to make important decisions about how they would like to experience death. The feeling of being in control often helps restore dignity and improves the quality of life so patients can make the most of the days they have left. While no one can know with certainty how much time one has left on earth, statistics show that the average hospice patient lives 29 days longer than patients that do not receive hospice support. Stress, worry and pain are heavy burdens to bear; hospice care helps decrease that burden.

    Hospice is about improving quality of life for the patient and the entire family. It does not mean giving up hope!

  • How is hospice different from other medical care?
    Hospice care is focused on all of the patient’s and family’s needs and treats the person who is ill, addressing symptoms causing difficulty. Traditional medical care treats the disease. A coordinated team of hospice professionals, assisted by volunteers, work to meet the patient’s and family’s emotional and spiritual needs, along with the patient’s physical needs. The emphasis is on controlling pain and symptoms through the most advanced techniques available and on emotional and spiritual support tailored to the needs of the patient and family.Hospice recognizes that a serious illness affects the entire family as well as the person who is ill. The family, not just the patient, is the “unit of care” for hospice professionals. Sometimes other family members actually need more attention than the patient.
  • How is Shepherd's Cove Hospice different from other hospice?
    Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is the largest, oldest regional hospice in our area. We are also the only non-profit hospice located in our area. Many people have the misconception that all hospices fall under the same leadership, and governance and are therefore all alike. Not so! Some hospices in your area are for-profit driven, owned and managed by companies or individuals who may or may not live in your community with large corporate rules and regulations. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is non-profit, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, who are your friends and neighbors and have your best interest at heart. Many hospices require patients to have a caregiver at home, or to agree to give up certain options of care. We believe there should be no barrier to high quality end-of-life care, admitting any eligible patient who requests hospice care, regardless of their ability or inability to pay.We realize that when you are in crisis and make a call to us, you want a prompt, courteous person on the other end of the phone. Except in extreme situations when an answering service is utilized, our phones are answered by our qualified health care professionals 24/7/365. Even in this age of convenient automation, we believe the human touch and the human voice is the reassurance you need at that time. Our night and weekend on call process is the best in the business with all disciplines designating an on-call and 2 back-ups every hour of every day.

    Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is committed to providing exceptional, individualized care for those coping with end-of-life issues. Our commitment to our quality extends from our commitment to provide quality of life for our patients, to quality of services provided to being a quality place of employment for our employees.

  • What does it mean that Shepherd's Cove Hospice is a non-profit hospice?
    You profit from our non-profit status. As a non-profit hospice you receive great value from the fact that we are not in the business of making a profit. We’re in the business of delivering the best end-of-life care available. Hospice is a special kind of care—it is a calling for most people. Our business is simply caring for patients, not on counting our profits. You also profit by your tax deductible donation. At Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, we care for your family like family.
  • What are the different levels of hospice care?
    • Routine Home Care – When people are very ill, many times they wish to remain in their own home, surrounded by the people and things they love. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice believes in bringing this special care to you, wherever you call home. Often, this means providing care in the patient’s own home, a skilled nursing facility, assisted living, or a nursing home, but regardless of the location, our team of professionals schedule regular home visits to ensure that medical, social, and emotional needs are met.
    • Inpatient Care – If pain or symptoms cannot be controlled at home, Shepherd’s Cove, our inpatient facility, can provide specialized hospice care. When the symptoms are under control, the patient can return home.
    • Respite Care – Many patients have their own caregivers who support them at home. When caregivers need a rest from their caregiving responsibilities, patients can come to Shepherd’s Cove for up to five days, then return home.
    • Continuous Care – Occasionally, during a period of intense medical crisis, patients and families have need of close medical attention. If this happens, Shepherd’s Cove Hospice can provide at least eight hours of care in a 24 hour period in the home to help weather this crisis. When the crisis is over, the patient can return to routine care in the home.
  • What if I don't want a stay in Shepherd's Cove?
    The hospice plan of care is designed around your needs and your desires. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice will not force you to go anywhere you do not wish to go. Shepherd’s Cove is an option of care that is unique to this area and provides a level of care and compassion unrivaled in all of North Alabama. But, because it is an option, you choose! Some of our patients who have visited with us several times have called the care at Shepherd’s Cove like “heaven on earth.”
  • What if I choose hospice care and then live more than six months?
    Hospice care does not automatically end after six months. Medicare and most other insurers will continue to pay for hospice care as long as a physician certifies that the patient continues to have a limited life expectancy.
  • What if my condition improves?
    There are times when a patient’s condition improves and they are discharged from hospice because they are no longer appropriate for this type of care. When this occurs, Shepherd’s Cove Hospice throws a party and celebrates with the family! We call this “graduation” and it is a time of great joy for the whole hospice team. We can assist in transferring care to a non-hospice provider such as a home health agency. Later, if the patient becomes eligible for hospice, the patient can re-elect the hospice benefit.
  • Does a patient have to live at home to receive Hospice care?
    No. In addition to the patient’s home, Hospice care can be provided in a nursing home, an assisted living facility or the hospital when necessary.
  • How does hospice manage pain and other symptoms?
    Hospice physicians and nurses are experts at pain and symptom control. They are continually learning new treatments for keeping patients comfortable and as alert and independent as possible. They know which medications to use singly and in combination to provide the best results for each patient.
  • I don't want to feel 'doped up' all the time, and I don't want to become addicted to the medication. Will the medicine do this to me?
    When morphine and other pain control medications are administered properly for medical reasons, patients find much-needed relief without getting “high”, craving drugs or becoming “addicted”. The result is that hospice patients often remain more alert and active because they are not exhausted by uncontrolled symptoms. Managing the medications in this way greatly improves the quality of life for someone living with a life-limiting disease.
  • What do I say to a family member or friend whom I believe may be eligible for hospice care?
    The best thing you can do for your family or friend is to listen. Find out what they need and then let them know there are people in the community who want to help. Be prepared to have them or other family members reject the idea of hospice care initially because they may consider hospice care ‘giving up’ or they are not “that bad yet”. Assure them a trained hospice employee can visit their home, explain how hospice can meet their needs without any obligation on their part. This may help them to see that hope is what hospice care is about. Hospice care is not just about the care given to those who are ill. It is also about the help and support that can be given to family members and other caregivers. A call to Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is not only is a call of hope for the patient, but for the family as well.
  • I don't have cancer, can I still call hospice for services?
    Hospice care is for anyone living with a life-limiting disease, not just cancer. Unfortunately, many people have numerous health problems that would contribute to the overall illness and enable someone to qualify for the assistance hospice can provide. Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and similar conditions, respiratory disease, stroke, heart disease, liver disease, ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, renal disease, HIV, and general failure to thrive are qualifying diagnoses in some circumstances. After we meet with you, our team of experts will speak with your physician to make recommendations for your care. If you do not qualify for hospice care, we may be able to lead you to other assistance in the community. You are not obligated and there is no charge for this “meet and greet” visit.
  • I don't live in Marshall County. Can I still receive care from Shepherd's Cove Hospice?
    Although we are named for the county of our birth, Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is a regional non-profit hospice with a service area of nine counties for home care. We have for years served patients in the Dekalb, Etowah, Blount, Cullman, Madison, Morgan, Jackson, and St. Clair county area. It is important to us that we are able to respond in a timely manner to your needs. We generally define our service area as “within a 50 mile radius” from our home office in Albertville; however, if your home is farther than 50 miles from our office, we can evaluate your situation and offer an option of electing care with us or referring you to another non-profit hospice closer to your home.For hospice care at our inpatient facility at Shepherd’s Cove, the county of residence is not a consideration for admission.
  • Should I consider hospice care if I'm still active and/or without pain?
    Absolutely!The best hospice care is care that begins prior to what you might consider a crisis, for example not being able to walk or experiencing pain. As long as someone qualifies for hospice care, there is not an enrollment restriction. Hospice care is about quality of life, living life to its fullest. Calling Shepherd’s Cove Hospice prior to those crises enables us to help you stay independent and have a team of experts available and ready to intervene if you should experience symptoms that interfere with your lifestyle.Another benefit of having hospice involved early in your care is that you and your family have time to become familiar and comfortable with the hospice team. When struggles arise, it is the friendly face of the hospice team that is helping you. The security of having caring, hospice professionals available by phone or for a visit 24 hours a day is invaluable.
  • What are the visiting hours for Shepherd's Cove?
    Families and friends of patients staying at Shepherd’s Cove are encouraged to visit and stay with their loved ones as much as they desire, even overnight. All guest rooms have fully-reclining chairs and a pull out sofa-bed.Visitors between 5 PM – 8:00 AM should use the entrance located to the right of the covered door.Children are welcome at Shepherd’s Cove; however, they must be closely supervised by an adult at all times.

    Our four-legged friends may visit also. Pets of the patient are welcome to visit, but should be up-to-date on their inoculations. Visitation should be restricted to the patient’s room. Permission for pet visitation may be obtained from the charge nurse. Prior to bringing the pet to Shepherd’s Cove, the pet should be bathed.

  • What if a hospice nurse is needed at night or on the weekend?
    Shepherd’s Cove Hospice nurses, social workers, chaplains, administrators and aides are on call 24 hours a day/7 days a week. We provide our patients and their families instruction on how to contact us any time, day or night. You can always call 256-891-7724 or toll free at 1-888-334-9336 to be assisted by someone if you are having trouble.
  • Can the patient's physician continue to be involved?
    Yes. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice does not take the place of a patient’s primary physician. We have a physician and nurse practitioner on our team who will work closely with each patient, their physician, and their family to determine what level of care is needed. Our nurse practitioner and medical director can provide oversight if requested.
  • Is Hospice care only for elderly patients?
    No. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice provides quality end-of-life care to people of all ages. Our patients range from newborns to the elderly.
  • Can a Hospice patient return to regular medical treatment if they improve?
    Yes. Patients will be evaluated regularly. If the patient’s condition improves, or their disease goes into remission, or if at any time they choose to continue treatments they previously declined, they may choose to discontinue hospice care. If the patient should later need to return, they may do so at any time.

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