The goal of hospice is simple. Hospice provides end-of-life care to those who have 6 months or less to live. And it also provides support for their families.
But there’s a lot more to hospice that many people don’t know about. How it works. Who pays for it. When is it time for hospice. And more.
So below, we answer the 7 most common question people search for related to hospice (and took care to do so in plain-English so everyone can understand the answers).
What Is Hospice?
First, let’s clear up a big misconception about hospice.
Hospice is NOT a place. Hospice care can be provided wherever the patient lives… in a nursing home, long term care facility or even the patient’s home.
Hospice is a term that describes the type of care provided. It’s a philosophy of care treats the person (not the disease) and focuses on their quality of life.
It also gives much needed emotional and spiritual support to the patient’s family as they come to grips with the end of life of their loved one.
That said, hospice is not a way to speed up the end of life process. It is simply a way to help a person be as comfortable as possible in the time they have left.
What Does Hospice Mean?
The literal definition of hospice is “a home providing care for the sick or terminally ill.”
But the answer to the question “what does hospice mean” can go much deeper than that. Because hospice can mean different things to different people.
It can represent a way to address the patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
For the family, it can represent a much needed support structure during one of the most overwhelming and difficult times of their lives.
It can also represent a dignified, peaceful way for the patient to live out their remaining days in a comfortable environment.
What Does Hospice Do (And Not Do)?
Hospice can do a lot for a patient and their family. Far more than most people understand. So let’s take a look at some of those things hospice does… and some that it doesn’t do.
What Hospice Does:
- Provides care to improve a patient’s comfort and reduce their pain. Basically improve their quality of life so they can live out their final months, weeks and days in as dignified way as possible.
- Provides that care in a comfortable environment as opposed to a hospital setting where a patient may be subjected to dehumanizing technology and treatment. And where they’re constantly being disturbed, poked and prodded.
- Provides a team that includes physicians, nurses, social workers, home health aides and/or grief counselors. It may also cover physical/occupational therapists if needed.
- Provides services (particularly the social work and grief counseling), resources and information for the entire family.
- Provides the necessary medication and medical equipment to keep the patient comfortable.
What Hospice Does Not Do:
- Provide treatments aimed at fighting the underlying illness that patient is suffering from.
- Cover the expenses associated with room and board at a senior care facility if the patient is not in their own home.
Does Medicare Cover Hospice?
Yes it does. Generally a patient needs to meet the following in order to have Medicare pay for hospice care:
- Have Medicare Part A.
- Be certified by a physician as being “terminally ill” – having 6 month or less to live.
- Accept “palliative care” for comfort as opposed to care involving attempts to cure the illness.
There are a few costs associated with hospice under Medicare. One is that there may be a copayment of $5 for any necessary prescription drugs. A patient may also need to pay 5% of the “Medicare-approved amount for inpatient respite care.” And, lastly, as mentioned above, room and board expenses are not covered.
How Does Hospice Work?
As mentioned above, there are a lot of caregivers involved in a patient’s hospice team. Doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors and more.
The team will take care of ordering, delivering and setting up the needed equipment, medication and supplies to keep the patient as comfortable as necessary.
The team’s goal is to give the patient the highest quality of life possible. And to provide whatever support the family needs. The hospice team will come up with a plan for the patient and the family based on their unique situation.
Hospice does not provide round the clock in-person care. However, they are available 24/7 to talk if something comes up. They will also provide in-person care to help with the patient’s physical care, such as bathing.
As the patient’s condition changes, the team will update the plan as needed. Again, to provide the highest level of comfort.
After the patient passes, hospice offer free grief counseling for the family for 13 months.
When Is It Time For Hospice?
The short answer to this question is as soon as possible.
When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s a good idea to at least call a hospice provider (or several) to discuss the situation. These are people who specialize in end-of-life care and their services and expertise are invaluable.
The sooner you reach out and start discussing how hospice can help your loved one and family, the better.
Who Pays For Hospice?
As mentioned above, Medicare covers most hospice costs.
Medicaid may also cover it. Medicaid coverage depends on what state you live in.
The Veteran’s Administration benefits will also cover hospice care.
Many private insurance plans also cover hospice.
If you have none of the above, you may still have hospice costs covered – either at a reduced rate or at no cost at all. This is because some hospice providers receive grants, donations or funding from other sources.
Having had family members that have received hospice care, I can’t begin to describe what an incredibly amazing service hospice workers provide to patients and their families.
If you are facing the end-of-life of a loved one, reach out to a local hospice. It could be one of the best things you do for your loved one and family at this difficult time in your lives.