Questions & Answers About Hospice Care
What is hospice?
Hospice is not a place, but a philosophy of compassionate, end-of-life care. At its center is the belief that every person has the right to be free of pain and out-of-control symptoms, to live his or her last days with dignity. It involves a team approach in providing: expert medical care, pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Family is included in creating a plan of care, and they receive needed and ongoing support.
Who is eligible for hospice care?
Typically, individuals with a life expectancy of less than six months are eligible for hospice care. Care is available to all terminally ill individuals regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, creed, sexual orientation or ability to pay.
Who pays for hospice programs?
Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private and managed care insurance plans. This includes payment for professional staff visits and services, medications for pain and symptom control, equipment, and supplies related to the terminal illness are included in the hospice plan of care. No patient will be turned away because of inability to pay for our services.
What is the difference between palliative care and hospice services?
Palliative, or comfort, care is a medical specialty focused on easing pain and relieving distressing symptoms. The goal is to improve the quality of life for patients living with complex, progressive or life-limiting conditions. Palliative care is available to patients much earlier in the course of illness. It can be combined with traditional, cure-focused care.
Why is hospice care important?
Hospice provides many benefits that aren’t possible in a traditional healthcare setting. Treating patients and their loved ones as a unit, hospice emphasizes care at home, quality of life and living fully.
Is my doctor involved?
Yes. Our interdisciplinary team will work with your doctor to get the best possible results.
Where is care provided?
In a setting that best suits the needs of the patient and caregivers. That may be in your home, an inpatient facility, skilled nursing or other assisted living facility.
Is hospice only for elderly people?
No, people of all ages may receive hospice care.
If I become unable to communicate, how will Hospice know how to treat me?
When you begin hospice treatment, you will give us oral and written instructions about your preferences for your future medical care. These instructions are called “advance directives.” They ensure that your wishes about your treatment are honored should you become unable to communicate.
What if I choose hospice care then live more than six months?
Hospice care does not automatically end after six months. Medicare and most other insurers will continue to pay for hospice care as long as a physician certifies that the patient continues to have a limited life expectancy.
What if my condition improves?
Occasionally, the quality of care provided by hospice leads to substantially improved health. When this happens, we transfer care to a palliative care provider. If the patient becomes eligible for hospice again in the future, the patient can re-enter the hospice program. There is no penalty for getting better!
What services does hospice include?
Hospice includes the services of an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals:
- Physicians - Our Medical Directors work with your personal physician to build a comprehensive team of medical professionals who specialize in controlling pain and other symptoms of serious illness. Working together, our team develops a plan of care that is right for each patient's individual situation and needs.
- Nurses - nurses are experts at managing the needs of each patient and can serve as a valuable resource in educating family members on how to assist in caring for their loved one. Our specially trained and experienced nurses develop and manage a specialized plan of care for each patient, focusing on the patient's individual needs and providing compassionate support to the entire family.
- Certified Nurse Assistants & Home Health Aides - These members of the team provide personal care and help the patient and family with activities of daily living. They also provide companionship and valuable emotional support.
- Social Workers - Our team of social workers coordinates community resources and helps the patient and family with non-medical concerns. The social workers can help comfort and give support to family members, plan for the future, assist with making financial arrangements and ease other emotional difficulties.
- Chaplains - These individuals work to help patients and families cope with spiritual questions and concerns, either directly or by coordinating services with the patient's and family's spiritual counselors.
- Bereavement Coordinators - has personnel available to help patients and families deal with grief through each phase of the process.
- Volunteers - These team members provide companionship and emotional support and offer help in a variety of ways.
- Hospice also provides medications, medical equipment and supplies necessary to promote comfort at home or in other hospice settings. Hospice staff are available at all times, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Doesn't accepting hospice care mean giving up?
Hospice involves acknowledging that most diseases in their advanced form cannot be cured. It does not mean giving up hope. Hope is found in helping the patient and family achieve the highest possible level of physical comfort and peace of mind. Hope means different things to different people, and we will walk by your side on the journey to live out what it means to you.
How does hospice manage pain and other symptoms?
Hospice physicians and nurses are experts at pain and symptom control. They are continually developing new protocols for keeping patients comfortable and as alert and independent as possible. They know which medications to use to provide the best results for each patient. When morphine and other pain control medications are administered properly for medical reasons, patients find much-needed relief. The result is that hospice patients often remain more alert and active because they are not exhausted by uncontrolled symptoms.
What kinds of emotional and spiritual support does hospice provide?
Hospice recognizes that people are more than a collection of symptoms. People nearing the end of their lives often face enormous emotional and spiritual distress. They are dismayed as their physical abilities begin to fail. They don't want to be a burden on their families. They worry how their loved ones will manage without them. Sometimes, they feel deep regret about things they have done or said - or things left undone and unsaid. Hospice professionals and volunteers are trained to be active listeners and to help patients and families work through some of these concerns so that they can find peace and emotional comfort in their final days.