6 Things You Should Know About Hospice Care

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an illness that doctors believe could be terminal within the next six months, hospice care has probably been recommended to you as an option. Far from being a death sentence, hospice care is actually designed to help you live out your days in the most comfortable fashion surrounded by the people you love. Hospice care teams provide support to family caretakers that can range from help with simple housekeeping tasks to specialized medical care.

  1. Hospice care is free to the patient: Hospice care is covered by Medicare and most private insurance plans. Medicare coverage requires that the hospice patient receives most of their treatment at home with only short inpatient facility stays during the hospice period. Hospice can be provided through private insurance plans for people who are in nursing home facilities. When you are placed under hospice care, the hospice facility handles all of your medical expenses including prescription medication and the costs of medical materials necessary to keep you comfortable. The majority of hospice care facilities also offer free care to those who are not members of insurance plans that specifically cover hospice. These pro bono services are generally covered by funds and contributions raised by the hospice facility through community outreach programs. The main goal of most hospice groups is to alleviate any concerns about financial considerations so that the patient and the patient’s family can focus on making the most of the patient’s final days.
  2. Care takes place in the patient’s home: Most hospice care is designed to allow the patient to spend their final days at home with family and friends. Doctors, nurses, counselors, and other members of the hospice team will visit the patient’s home regularly to care for the patient and help home caretakers manage patient care more easily. Hospice will provide any medical equipment necessary to keep the patient comfortable during this time, including special hospital beds, monitors, and other items not typically kept at home. The hospice team will train the home caretakers if necessary so that they are prepared to handle any unusual tasks that the patient might need while staying at home.
  3. Respite care is an important aspect of hospice: While the focus of hospice is to keep the patient stable and comfortable, one of the most important aspects of the service is to provide relief to family members or friends who have been caring for the patient on their own. Hospice counselors and volunteers will come into the home and keep the patient company so that family and friends can take a break from their caretaking duties and care for themselves. Families can also rely on hospice care volunteers to help them run errands or take care of normal household tasks while the patient is at home.
  4. Hospice includes emotional as well as physical support: Hospice is a comprehensive care program designed to help the patient and the patient’s family through the final phases of someone’s life. Counselors are available for friends and family members of the patient to help them work through the emotions of potentially losing a loved one. Professional nurses and doctors are also available to take some of the burden of care from the patient’s family and to make sure that the patient is receiving all of the necessary medical treatment in order to remain comfortable. The physical needs of family and friends will be attended to as much as possible as well.
  5. Patients can improve and be discharged from hospice care: While hospice care does not include any active treatment of the patient’s illness, there are times when a patient will rally and become more healthy on their own. In these cases, the patient’s doctor may recommend that the patient be discharged from hospice and returned to normal medical care. Patients can also choose to end hospice at any time after the service has been started. Hospice is not a death sentence, it is merely non-aggressive medical care that keeps a patient and a patient’s family comfortable.
  6. Hospice care continues as long as necessary: Patients qualify for hospice treatment when they have been diagnosed with six months to live. That does not mean that hospice care will end after six months if the patient lives past that diagnosis. Hospice care will continue as long as it is needed, regardless of the time frame. Medical diagnosis is not an exact art, so there are times when a patient will outlive a diagnosis or even regain some health during time in hospice. If you are a Medicare recipient, your hospice situation will be evaluated once a year to determine whether you should continue to receive hospice care. Other insurance plans will vary in their evaluation periods. Hospice will never be ended without the patient’s consent.