Hospice is individualized end-of-life care to enhance quality of life for people who are coping with any life limiting illness. With hospice, a team of specialized health professionals, skilled in pain and symptom management, provide comfort and care to patients, their families and caregivers.
What is hospice care?
Hospice focuses on caring, not curing and in most cases care is provided in the patient's home. Hospice care also is provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.
When is the right time to ask about hospice?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect from hospice services. Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
How does hospice care work?
Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The hospice team develops a care plan that meets each patient's individual needs for pain management and symptom control. The team usually consists of:
What services are provided?
Among its major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team:
Where is hospice care provided?
Most hospice care is provided at home — with a family member typically serving as the primary caregiver. However, hospice care is also available at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and dedicated hospice facilities. Keep in mind that no matter where hospice care is provided, sometimes it's necessary to be admitted to a hospice inpatient unit or hospital. For instance, if a symptom can't be adequately managed by the hospice care team in a home setting, a hospice inpatient unit or hospital stay might be needed.
How does hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by the patient’s doctor. Often a hospice program representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family/primary caregiver. Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral. However, in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.
How to pay for hospice care?
Hospice is paid for through the Medicare Hospice Benefit, Medicaid Hospice Benefit, and most private insurers.
Medicare and Hospice Benefits: Getting Started Brochure (English and Spanish Version)
Medicare Hospice Benefit Brochure ( English and Spanish)