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What is hospice care?

Hospice care is specialized medical care for individuals with a terminal illness. It focuses on providing comfort and support to patients and their families during the final stages of life.

Who is eligible for hospice care?

Patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of six months or less, as determined by a physician, are typically eligible for hospice care.

What diseases require hospice care?
These are the most common end stage diseases associated with hospice care:

Cancer Cardiovascular diseases CHF/CAD Liver/renal disease Pulmonary disease COPD/emphysema AIDS/HIV Neurological diseases Stroke Coma Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s Dementia

What services are provided in hospice care?

Hospice care offers a range of services including pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, assistance with activities of daily living, medication management, and coordination of care among healthcare providers.

Where is hospice care provided?

Hospice care can be provided in various settings including the patient's home, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospice centers. The goal is to provide care wherever the patient feels most comfortable.

How is hospice care different from palliative care?

While both hospice and palliative care focus on improving quality of life for patients with serious illnesses, hospice care is specifically for patients in the final stages of life, whereas palliative care can be provided at any stage of illness and alongside curative treatments.

Does hospice care only focus on physical needs?

No, hospice care addresses the holistic needs of patients, including physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs. It aims to enhance the quality of life for patients and their families by providing comprehensive support.

What levels of care are offered?

Hospice patients may require differing intensities of care. These levels include: Routine care Respite care Crisis care General inpatient care Routine Care - Includes nursing, social workers, counseling services (spiritual, dietary and bereavement), volunteers, therapies, medical supplies, medications and durable medical equipment that are related to the primary hospice diagnosis or related diagnoses and identified in the patient’s plan of care. These services are covered under Medicare Part A, Medicaid and many private insurance companies. The hospice interdisciplinary team is available for care needs identified in the patient’s plan of care during working hours and by our on-call staff to support the patient and family. A patient’s physician can choose to remain as the attending physician when the patient is on hospice, or the hospice physician can be elected as attending.  Respite Care - Short-term inpatient care provided to the patient when necessary to relieve the family members or other persons caring for the individual at home. Respite care may only be provided in a Medicare participating hospital or hospice inpatient facility, or a Medicare or Medicaid participating nursing facility. Respite care may be provided on an occasional basis for up to five consecutive days at a time.  Continuous Home Care/Crisis Care - May be provided only during a period of crisis as necessary to maintain the patient at home. The medical guidelines to use this type of care include uncontrolled pain, intractable nausea, emesis or other major gastrointestinal symptoms, respiratory distress, severe decubitus or other skin lesions/wounds, other physical symptoms defined by the interdisciplinary team as unmanageable in an alternative setting requiring frequent medication adjustment, and psychological problems that create significant psychosocial pathology in the patient or family.  General Inpatient Care -Patients with a terminal disease or illness who elect the Medicare hospice benefit can access General Inpatient Care for the management of pain or other symptoms that cannot be managed in the home setting. Inpatient care is provided in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities or free-standing facilities.

When is it time to call hospice?

The earlier you call, the more we can do to help you. At any time during a serious illness, it’s appropriate to discuss all of the patient’s care options, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Hospice staff members are always available to discuss this decision with the patient, family and physician.

What symptoms indicate that hospice care may be needed?

The symptoms below may mean that hospice care is right for your family. Increased pain Shortness of breath Frequent infections Recurrent hospitalizations Weight Loss Decline in ability to function Cognitive decline Non-healing wounds

How is the patient admitted to hospice?

One of the first things hospice will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for this patient at this time. The patient will also be asked to sign consent forms. The hospice election form explains that the patient understands that the care is palliative (aimed at pain relief and symptom control) rather than curative and outlines the services available.

How is hospice care paid for?

Hospice care is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurance plans. Some hospice organizations also offer financial assistance or sliding-scale fees for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Can patients continue to receive curative treatments while on hospice care?

In most cases, patients who choose hospice care forego curative treatments aimed at prolonging life. However, they can still receive treatments to manage symptoms and improve comfort.

How does hospice care support family members and caregivers?

Hospice care provides emotional support, education, and respite care for family members and caregivers. It helps them navigate the challenges of caring for a terminally ill loved one and cope with grief and loss.

Is hospice care only for cancer patients?

No, hospice care is available for individuals with any terminal illness, including but not limited to cancer, heart disease, dementia, ALS, and HIV/AIDS. It is tailored to meet the unique needs of each patient and their family.

How does hospice manage pain?

Our nurses and doctors are up to date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. Using a combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients can attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them. We believe that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so we address these as well. Counselors, including clergy, are available to assist family members as well as patients.

What if they improve? Can we stop hospice after it is started?

Certainly. If improvement in the condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice. Patients can choose to stop hospice care or change their hospice provider once during each period of care. Benefit periods are defined as first 90 days, second 90 days and unlimited 60-day periods.

Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?

Usually not. It is our goal to help patients be comfortable and alert by constantly consulting with the patient. We have been successful in reaching this goal.

Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?

Hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process but does nothing to either speed up or slow down the dying process.

Does hospice provide help to the family after the patient dies?

Yes, our bereavement program offers spiritual and emotional support to family members after the death of their loved one for 13 months. The amount of contact is determined by the needs and wishes of the patient’s family.

Still have an outstanding question? Send us a message and we'll be happy to get you the information!

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