Rosalynn Carter dies after entering hospice care: What to know

Rosalynn Carter dies after entering hospice care: What to know

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Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died Sunday, days after she entered hospice care at the family’s Georgia home, the Carter Center confirmed.

Former President Jimmy Carter entered a nursing home in February after a series of short hospital stays, and their grandson Jason Carter told USA TODAY in September that his grandparents were nearing their end.

Rosalynn Carter, 96, entered a nursing home on Friday after it was revealed she had dementia in May.

“They’re together. They’re home. They’re in love, and I don’t think anyone gets more than that. I mean this is a perfect situation for this time in their lives,” Jason Carter said in September.

Here’s what to know about the end-of-life care that more than a million Americans choose each year.

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What is elderly care?

After attempts to treat a patient’s illness have stopped, hospice care can provide comfort and support in the final stages of life.

Hospice care is designed to maximize a patient’s comfort and quality of life as they approach death, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Both patients and their loved ones receive support from the hospice team, which consists of a doctor, nurses, nurse aides, social workers, chaplains and volunteers, said Amy Tucci, president of the Hospice Foundation of America.

Patients do not receive any medical intervention aimed at prolonging life. Hospice care is also not medically assisted death, which it is often confused with, Tucci added.

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How long does hospice care usually last?

Hospice care is provided to patients who choose not to receive treatment for a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of six months or less, according to the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.

“Her goal is to help people die painlessly… with dignity and surrounded by family and friends,” Tucci said. “So it’s something very special.”

Where is elderly care provided?

Hospice care is typically provided in the home, which can be defined as a private residence, nursing home or assisted living facility, Tucci said. Care is also sometimes provided in a hospital or designated hospice facility, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In 2018, more than half of Medicare patients enrolled in hospice care at home died, according to research by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Typical care routine:

  • When a patient begins hospice care, the care team evaluates his or her needs and develops a care plan based on the patient’s specific condition. The doctor determines which medications the patient should continue, focusing on pain management.
  • The primary caregiver, usually a trusted friend or family member, spends most of the time managing the patient’s care.
  • A common hospice routine may include multiple visits by a nurse and aides throughout the week to check on a patient’s condition and help with bathing and other needs, Tucci said.
  • The social worker helps the patient and family manage any stressors that arise with the nursing home.
  • Volunteers help patients and caregivers with simple tasks, such as mowing the lawn or taking care of other household chores.
  • A chaplain or other religious counselor provides spiritual support.

JJ Hensley contributed to this report

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