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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for Hospice care?

A person that has an illness and an estimated life expectancy of six months or less if the illness runs its usual course.  After electing hospice, the person’s eligibility must be certified by a physician (normally the hospice’s medical director in conjunction with the patient’s attending physician).


Is hospice only for people who are dying?

Hospice is for people who have a limited life expectancy of six months or less. This means that he or she has a condition that makes dying a realistic possibility.


Who is best suited for hospice care?

Hospice patients are those with serious medical conditions. Usually they have diseases that are life threatening and make physically, emotionally, or spiritually day-to-day living very uncomfortable. Hospice specializes in easing pain, discomfort, and distress on all levels. The care provided by hospice is often helpful for conditions such as cancer, heart disease, COPD (emphysema) and advanced dementia. Seriously ill patients who have decided that their priority is to have the best quality of life possible are best suited for hospice.


Isn't using hospice the same as "giving up"?

Hospice involves acknowledging that most diseases in their advanced form cannot be cured.  This recognition does not mean giving up hope. Hope is found by helping the person and their families achieve the highest possible level of physical comfort, peace of mind and quality of life. In fact, an emphasis on quality of life and easing pain and distress often allows the patient to spend his or her final months focusing on the things that are ultimately the most important and meaningful. 


Should we wait for the doctor to suggest hospice?

Doctors often wait for families to bring it up. This is part of the reason that people often receive hospice care so late in the process. If you think your loved one and family might benefit from the support of weekly home visits from staff that specialize in pain control and the easing of distress, ask your doctor if hospice might be something to consider now, or in the near future.


When is the best time to start hospice care?

Most patients and families who receive hospice care say they wish they had known about it earlier and that they needed the help and support much sooner than they received it. Hospice can increase both the quality of life and how long a patient lives.  It is better to ask sooner rather than later so you do not regret having missed the amazing support that hospice has to offer.


Who pays for hospice?

If the patient has Medicare and meets hospice eligibility requirements, then the government will pay as much as 100% of the cost. In such a case, there is no deductible and no copayment. Not only are the services of the hospice staff entirely covered, but medical supplies and prescriptions relating to pain and comfort management are also covered. Hospice care is also covered by Medicaid and most commercial insurance plans. 


Once you begin hospice care, you cannot leave the program?

A person may sign out of the hospice program for a variety of reasons, such as their choice to resume aggressive curative treatment or pursue experimental measures.  Additionally, if a patient shows signs of recovery and no longer meets the 6 month guideline, he or she can be discharged from hospice care and return to the program when the illness has progressed at a later time.


Is hospice a place?

Hospice is not a place – it’s a service. Hospice brings physical, emotional, and spiritual care and support to wherever the patient lives; in their home, long-term care facilities, assisted living or retirement communities, rest homes and hospitals.


Does hospice only care for cancer patients?

No. Hospice serves those who are at the end-stage (having a life expectancy of six months or less) of any disease, although many hospice patients do have cancer.  As health care changes and chronic diseases increase, hospice serves a widening range of patients. Other people commonly served by hospice include those with diseases of the heart and lungs, AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig´s disease) and Alzheimer´s.


Hospice “dopes people up” so they become addicted or sleep all the time?

When patients have a legitimate need for pain medication, they do not become addicted to it. Hospice has the expertise to manage pain so that patients are comfortable yet alert and are able to enjoy each day to the fullest extent possible, given their medical condition.


What are the different levels of hospice care? 

Most hospice patients live at home or in a nursing home. Routine home hospice care covers the services, of the interdisciplinary hospice team, medications and equipment. Other categories of care are available when needed.


Routine: Standard level of care given in the home, long term care facility or assisted living facility.  Care includes visits from the hospice nurse, chaplain, social worker and home health aides as well as 24-hour on call nursing support.


Inpatient Care: Sometimes pain or symptoms cannot be controlled at home, and the patient is taken to a hospital or other inpatient care center. The patient returns home when their symptoms are under control. Insurance usually covers the cost of inpatient room and board.


Respite Care: Many patients have their own caregivers, often family members. When caregivers need a rest from their care giving responsibilities, patients can stay in a nursing home or hospice residential care center for up to five days. Medicare covers the cost of room and board, as do many other insurance plans.


Continuous Care: Sometimes a patient has a medical crisis that needs close medical attention. When this happens, we can arrange for inpatient care, or the hospice provider staff can provide round-the-clock care in the home. When the crisis is over, the patient returns to routine home care.

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