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4 Your Health: Hospice respite benefit not often used by caregiv - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

4 Your Health: Hospice respite benefit not often used by caregivers

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Tucson- The experience of losing a loved one is difficult enough and can be made even more emotionally draining when a person is providing care at home.

Hospice respite care is a Medicare benefit that allows for a patient, in the last six months of their lives, to spend five nights at a certified hospice facility, receiving total care. Piper Frithsen, an administrator for Casa De La Luz Hospice said, surprisingly, many caregivers are not aware or are reluctant to use the benefit.

"Respite is underutilized for multiple reasons, it could be family members feel guilty, they want to actually care for their loved on at home, or the patient wanted to be at home", said Frithsen, "It could also be because it is just not well known."

Frithsen said only about 2 percent of Medicare patients use the respite care benefit. That is unfortunate, she says, because respite care can greatly benefit the caregiver by simply giving them a much needed break.

"It is very emotionally and physically demanding on a caregiver to care as their loved one is dying", Frithsen said, "So giving them this time away and allowing them to be the family member again, allows them to refuel and take care of themselves."

Bobby Weniger's wife is in the final months of her life. Until recently he had been caring for her at home. He said that the respite care benefit not only helped him recharge emotionally but also gave him the opportunity to see how full time hospice care would benefit his wife. 

"This has given me the opportunity to get a little more in to my life and myself again", said Weniger, "It loosened my load."

Frithsen said when a beneficiary elects to use the coverage the facility handles every aspect of the care needed for the patient.

"The services included in respite care are everything that the home care provides", said Frithsen, "Room and board, meals, medication and then 24 hour care coverage from a skilled facility."

To learn more about the hospice respite care benefit click here.

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