What is palliative care?
Palliate means to lessen the pain without curing, to ease.  Palliative care provides relief from the physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms and pain that often accompany a serious illness.  Where curative care works to treat a disease, palliative care works to relieve pain and other distressing symptoms.  The goals of palliative medicine are to control symptoms, relieve suffering, and preserve the best possible quality of life for the patient.  The term “comfort care” is often used to describe palliative care.  Hospice care is palliative care but not all palliative care is hospice care. A patient can receive palliative care to ease and relieve pain and other symptoms while continuing to receive curative care. When a patient chooses hospice care, they discontinue the curative care and focus only on the palliative aspects of care.

Why do terminally ill patients choose hospice care?
Hospice is the “something more” that can be done for the patient and family when the illness cannot be cured.  Hospice is a concept based on comfort-oriented care.  Hospice is a compassionate approach to managing the pain and physical symptoms of terminal illness.  Hospice focuses on respecting the individual’s wishes and maintaining dignity by helping to control pain, manage symptoms, and provide emotional and spiritual support. Hospice care focuses on quality of life issues.

What does the hospice admission process involve?
Upon request for hospice care,CMMC Hospice will contact the patient’s primary care physician to make sure they agree that hospice care is appropriate for this patient, at this time.  An appointment will then be set for CMMC Hospice to visit with the patient and family to explain in detail what hospice provides and to answer any questions.  If the patient and family feel that all curative measures have been exhausted and that comfort care is the focus, an admission to hospice will be completed.  Consent forms will be signed and a plan of care focused on the needs of the patient will be developed in coordination with the patient’s primary care physician.  Call 406-535-6302 regarding admission.

Do I need a referral for hospice care?
Patients are admitted to CMMC Hospice with a physician referral.  We can help get this authorization, if needed. If you get a referral from anyone other than the patient’s primary care physician,CMMC Hospice will contact the primary physician and advise them of the referral. After the assessment visit, we will meet with the primary care physician to get their authorization for care and to develop the patient’s plan of care. Your primary care physician becomes an integral part of the hospice team.

Do I have to check my loved one into a hospice facility?
No, in fact, the majority of our patients receive hospice care in their own homes. CMMC Hospice strives to maintain the patient at the “home of their choice.”  That “home” may be their private home, the home of a family member, an assisted living facility or a skilled nursing center (nursing home).  A residential hospice facility, CMMC Hospice House, opened doors December 2013.

What is involved in caring for a loved one receiving hospice care at home?
The care necessary varies from patient to patient, but we work with the caregiver to develop a personal care plan built around the patient’s needs.  Every patient of CMMC Hospice has an interdisciplinary team of experts assigned to his or her case.  Care teams are made up of physicians, registered nurses, home health aides, social workers, and trained volunteers.  We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide the support you need. As the illness progresses, and if the care needed exceeds the caregiver’s ability or availability, the hospice social worker and the case manager RN can work with you to develop a plan to move the patient to another level of care.

Does CMMC Hospice have a residential facility?
Yes, CMMC Hospice House opened its doors in December 2013.

How extensive is Hospice of Central Montana?
CMMC Hospice serves all of Fergus County and parts of Judith Basin County. There are 75 volunteers that devote their time, talents, and love to our program.  As a department of Central Montana Medical Center, CMMC Hospice employs more than 40 dedicated staff members. We have the support and resources of Central Montana Medical Center to rely upon.  We served more than 80 patients and their families in 2010-2011.

How much does hospice care cost?  Is it affordable?
Studies have shown that hospice care provides expert pain and symptom management and is more cost-effective than hospitalization. A recent report shows that hospice care actually reduces the health expenditures for patients in their last six months of life.  Medicare and most health insurance carriers have benefits that cover most or all of the cost of hospice care.  Ability to pay or having health care insurance are not criteria for admission to CMMC Hospice.  This policy of serving all who need hospice care is made possible by the generous donations from the community, from the loved ones of former hospice patients, and from all those who support hospice fundraisers throughout the year.

Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment? 
Certainly, if improvement in the terminal condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient will be discharged from hospice care. The regular intervention and supervision of the RN case manager and compliance with medication and symptom control often result in a significant improvement in the patient’s condition. If this improvement is sustained over a period of time, discharge is appropriate.  If the discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, they can be re-admitted.

Will pain medication leave my loved one incoherent or unable to talk?
We work to find the right balance for every patient, relieving pain without sacrificing alertness.  This requires constant consulting between the hospice nurses, the patient and family, and their doctor.

What is an Advance Directive?
The term advance directive describes two types of legal documents that enable you to plan for and communicate your end-of-life wishes in the event you are unable to communicate:

  • A Living Will allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life

  • A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person you trust as your health care agent, who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. This is also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or as a Health Care Proxy.

How can I help?
Community assistance is essential to our non-profit organization. You can help in a variety of ways—from becoming a volunteer to making a donation. Your support helps to ensure that we can continue to provide hospice care to all who need it in Central Montana.  For more information please visit the Volunteer, Support Hospice, and Hospice House pages.

Where are you located?
CMMC Hospice offices are located in the Central Montana Medical Center complex at 408 Wendell Ave., Lewistown.  The CMMC Hospice entrance is at the northeast end of the building, in the lower level, under the Judith Peaks Rehab Center. Call 406-535-6302 for more information.