Hospice Care FAQs
How does hospice “work”?
Hospice steps in when a terminally ill patient’s regular physician gives them a prognosis of six months (or fewer) to live. After a hospice medical director seconds the doctor’s prognosis, hospice can step in and offer help. The main goal of hospice is to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being for the patient and their family. This can be as simple as administering medication or as complex as providing grief counseling. Most hospice services offer help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so a patient and their primary caregivers are never left “high and dry” with no one to turn to. And even though hospice care is intended for a person’s final six months of life, services aren’t automatically cut-off if the patient lives longer than expected. Your hospice team will be around as long as they are needed!
What does hospice cover?
According to the official U.S. Medicare website, hospice can include any of the following duties: doctor services; providing medical equipment (oxygen, wheelchairs, walkers, lifts, etc.), medical supplies (bandages, catheters, etc.), and medications that are related to the terminal diagnosis; nutritional and dietary counseling; physical and occupational therapy as needed; hospice aide / homemaker services (i.e., help with bathing, grooming, and dressing); social worker services (including grief and loss counseling for the patient’s family); short-term inpatient care; and respite care for a patient’s family (available for a five-day stint). Your hospice team will be able to make a care plan that suits your specific needs.
What does hospice NOT cover?
Simply put, hospice does not cover measures designed to “cure” or “heal” an illness. The goal of hospice is to make patients and their families as comfortable as possible during the patient’s last few months of life. If a patient has a terminal diagnosis and shows a decline, we can continue services even after six months.
How does hospice help families?
A major tenet of hospice is to provide care for the patient and their loved ones. On a very basic level, hospice professionals can undertake duties that would be difficult (or practically impossible) for a family member to safely perform, like bathing and lifting the patient. A hospice employee can also provide help with feeding and meal planning. Hospice can provide respite care for patients; this means that the patient’s family gets to “take a break” from caregiving duties while their loved one stays in an affiliated facility for a short period of time. And finally, hospice can offer grief counseling and emotional support to the patient’s family, helping them cope with the impending death of their loved one in a safe and healthy manner.
How is hospice care paid for?
Medicare covers 100% of the cost of hospice as well as for medications related to the hospice diagnosis, medical equipment and even for respite care. Additional sources include Medicaid, private health insurance and self-payment. Hospice care can also be paid for in full by the patient or their family, but this extremely uncommon. Clients are never going to get a bill for hospice; the only thing they will probably pay for is medication that is not covered.
Are hospice services covered by Medicare?
Yes. As long as the patient qualifies for Medicare, then Medicare can usually cover hospice services. After your loved one has been approved for Medicare and given a prognosis of six months left to live, they (or their legal guardian) can sign a statement saying that they choose hospice in lieu of other Medicare services. You must also select a Medicare-approved hospice program.
What hospice services are covered by Medicare?
Generally speaking, all hospice levels of care are covered by Medicare.
What hospice services are NOT covered by Medicare?
Medicare does not cover prescription co-pays, emergency treatment, room and board in a nursing home or other long-term care facility (this is covered by Medicare), and any treatment (including medication) that is designed to “cure” the illness rather than manage symptoms or improve the patient’s quality of life.
Are hospice and palliative care the same thing?
No. Though hospice and palliative care both offer companionship, emotional support, and help with day-to-day living for people experiencing serious illnesses (and their families), palliative care can include curative measures. Hospice, on the other hand, is specifically for patients who are terminally ill.
Are hospice workers volunteers?
Sometimes. A hospice care team usually consists of both licensed professionals (including physicians, nurses, social workers, and caregivers) and volunteers. Both the professionals and volunteers work together to ensure that the patient receives quality care in a variety of different areas.
What do hospice social workers do?
During their regular visits to the patient’s home, social workers verify that the patient is receiving proper (and enough) care and that everyone on the hospice team is “working together” the way they should. The social worker also checks in with the patient’s family to see if they need help from an emotional or spiritual standpoint. And social workers can help the patient’s family with end-of-life-plans, such as funeral arrangements or advanced directives.
What do hospice volunteers do?
Hospice volunteers often perform “housekeeping duties” for the patient and their family. This can include light cleaning, meal preparation and planning, and running errands (including driving the patient to and from appointments or taking them shopping). Volunteers can also provide companionship by holding conversations, helping with hobbies, playing games, or just listening while the patient talks. Although the duties that a volunteer can perform are slightly limited compared to that of a professional caregiver, they play an essential role in keeping the patient’s spirits up.
Where can hospice care be provided?
Hospice care can be provided to a patient in their home, a medical facility, or a hospital. A hospice team can help the patient and their family decide which option is the best for the patient’s physical and emotional help.
Where do hospice nurses work?
Hospice nurses usually go to their patients instead of the patient coming to them. Thus, nurses can visit your loved one in your home, a hospital, or a medical facility.
Who regulates hospice?
Hospice is regulated both by the federal government and the state. Individual hospice groups are accredited by The Joint Commission, a third-party, non-profit organization that evaluates health care companies. Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services verify that hospice groups provide Medicaid-covered services.
Does hospice cover dementia?
Yes. Hospice care is available for anyone with a prognosis of six months or fewer to live. Because specific care needs may be different for dementia patients when compared to “typical” hospice clients, your hospice team can work out an individual plan that works for your loved one and the rest of the family.