HIV – or human immunodeficiency virus—destroys important cells in a person’s immune system. This makes those with HIV incredibly susceptible to a number of diseases. While there is no cure for HIV, treatment is needed to be sure the disease doesn’t lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. With proper medical care, HIV can be managed, but it will never go away.
At Lower Cape Fear Life Care, we strive to provide hospice care for HIV and AIDS patients in the place they call home—whether that is a private residence, a hospital or one of our hospice care centers.
We’ll review the stages of HIV, explain how those with HIV and AIDS are susceptible to other diseases, and how hospice care can help alleviate patients’ symptoms.
The Three Stages of HIV
There are three stages of HIV that demonstrate its progression into AIDS.
Stage I HIV
During this stage, many people with the disease may have flu-like symptoms. They are very contagious at this point.
Because flu-like symptoms can mimic many other diseases, if you have been exposed to HIV, you should get tested to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Stage 2 HIV
Although the HIV virus is still active, many people may not have any symptoms or feel sick during this period. However, it’s still important to remember that even without active symptoms, you can still transmit HIV.
If patients follow treatment, their disease may never progress to the third stage, which is AIDS.
Stage 3: HIV Becomes AIDS
This is the most severe stage of HIV infection and without treatment, patients typically survive for three years. Because their immune systems are severely damaged, they can get serious illnesses or opportunistic infections.
Comorbidities Associated with HIV/AIDS
A comorbidity is when a patient has two or more diseases at the same time. Because of its impact on the immune system, patients with HIV/AIDS may have several comorbidities.
Some of the most common comorbidities include:
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney failure (renal disease)
- Hepatitis B and C
- Dyslipidaemia, a condition that increases the chances of clogged arteries
HIV and AIDS: When Is It Appropriate to Call Hospice?
While many may believe hospice care is only for cancer patients, we actually assist patients with a wide variety of diagnoses, including Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure and COPD.
We also provide hospice care for AIDS and HIV patients who have decided to no longer seek curative treatment.
When Should HIV and AIDS Patients Contact Hospice?
Signs that it is time to call hospice include:
- The presence of serious comorbidities that include cancer or heart disease
- Repeated hospitalizations
- Multiple emergency room visits to address the same problem
- Difficulty performing tasks of everyday living
- A low CD4 count. This is an indicator of an extremely weakened immune system
We’ll review a few of the many ways in which we help these patients, as well as provide information on how to refer someone to hospice services.
5 Important Ways We Provide Hospice Care for AIDS and HIV Patients
1. Pain and Symptom Control
We believe that life is about quality. Through our symptom control management, we help ensure that our patients are able to spend their days filled with family and friends unburdened by pain.
Patients with HIV/AIDS are extremely susceptible to having additional illnesses, and therefore, pain from multiple different causes may be present. In addition, HIV/AIDS can cause pain due to the body’s inflammatory response to the virus.
Pain and symptom management is the first way we provide hospice care for AIDS and HIV patients.
2. Emotional and Spiritual Support
In addition to the challenges patients face, many people with HIV/AIDS must cope with depression that can become severe. There may also be distress when discussing their condition with a loved one. Family members may not understand or even know what to say to the patient.
Our hospice professionals are well-versed in helping patients maneuver through this challenging time, providing emotional support and a listening ear. We also guide families through the process, providing assistance to help them maintain a supportive relationship with their loved one.
When faced with a terminal illness, many patients find comfort or express an interest in spirituality. At Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, we have counselors and chaplains on staff who can help guide and emotionally support our patients—no matter what their belief system.
3. Individualized Care Plans
Our care plans are tailored for each individual, with multiple facets that address common problems that occur in patients with HIV/AIDS. Because HIV/AIDS patients often have several comorbidities, we evaluate the care plans associated with each condition to create a comprehensive strategy to provide the services needed most to manage symptoms and make the patient comfortable.
4. Access to One of Our Hospice Care Centers
If there’s a need for inpatient services, we can provide assistance at one of our beautiful and relaxing patient care centers. These centers have full-time physicians on staff as well as state-of-the-art medical equipment.
These centers include:
- The Dr. Robert M. Fales Hospice Pavilion in Wilmington
- The Angel House Hospice Care Center in Whiteville
- The SECU Hospice House of Brunswick in Bolivia
The centers also have plenty of available space for visits from family, friends and even pets. It’s an important facet of providing hospice care for AIDS and HIV patients.
5. Bereavement Care and Support for the Entire Family
At Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, we don’t just serve the patient, we’re also there to help guide their family through these difficult times. We offer extensive grief support to families and anyone in the community who has lost someone they love.
We believe that an important aspect of helping the patient includes helping those that they love.
These services are provided by professionals who have extensive experience and training in grief counseling. We offer individual and group sessions for up to 13 months after a patient’s death.
How Do I Refer Someone to Hospice?
Referring someone to hospice is simple, easy and straightforward – it takes less than five minutes! Hospice care for AIDS and HIV patients is especially important because these patients are prone to a variety of symptoms that may be brought on by acquiring other diseases, such as pneumonia. Therefore, it is important to get hospice care as soon as the doctor gives a prognosis of six months or less to live.
All you have to do is complete our online referral form or call 800.207.6908.
You Can Trust Lower Cape Fear LifeCare: Hospice Care for AIDS and HIV Patients
We provide services for a variety of illnesses and specialize in hospice care for AIDS and HIV patients. AIDS and HIV patients have a very specific set of needs that is caused by their susceptibility to several different diseases. In fact, two or more of these diseases may be present at the same time. A thorough understanding of the condition is necessary to determine the best care option.
For more information on HIV/AIDS, visit the Centers for Disease Control website
Our stellar reputation is reflected in our patient satisfaction scores. We ranked 92 percent in the category of “willing to recommend this hospice,” as rated by caregivers on a hospice quality survey. The national average is 84 percent.
Hospice services are typically covered by private insurance companies as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
While this is important information, we want to stress to you that not all hospices are the same. In fact, Lower Cape Fear LifeCare frequently outranks other hospices across the country in eight categories. These categories and survey results are from a national caregivers’ survey. These surveys take into account treating patients with respect, spiritual and emotional support.
In addition, as a non-profit hospice, we accept anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and have demonstrated some of the symptoms listed in this article, please contact us. We want to provide the assistance you need at this point in your life’s journey.