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Hospice: Frequently Asked Questions

By: Integrity Home Care + Hospice

Our team at Integrity Home Care and Hospice knows the decision to begin hospice for a loved one is never an easy decision to make. There are many factors to consider, and it can often be hard to know where to start. To help you understand the ins and outs of hospice, we’ve rounded up the most frequently asked questions about hospice to help you make an informed decision about your senior relative’s end-of-life care.

What exactly is hospice care? 

At its most basic, hospice is a concept of care that prioritizes comfort, peace and support for the terminally ill and their family. Hospice care includes a wide range of services focused on maintaining the dignity and beauty of life—even at the very end. Hospice workers help guide patients and their families through the last chapter of their lives, allowing patients to let go of the details and focus on the things that matter most. 

What services are included in hospice care? 

A variety of services fall under the umbrella of hospice care, but the exact services a patient receives will be determined by their specific needs. That being said, below is a list of services that hospice workers can administer during hospice care. 

  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Nursing and medical services 
  • Drugs for pain management
  • Aide and homemaker services
  • Social services
  • Dietary counseling
  • Doctors’ services
  • Medical supplies and medical equipment
  • Speech-language pathology services
  • Inpatient respite care
  • Short-term inpatient care for pain and symptom management
  • Spiritual and grief counseling for you and your family

Where is hospice care provided? 

Because hospice is an approach to care, rather than one specific type of service, hospice workers provide care in a few different locations. Hospice workers typically go to the patient to provide services—often at a private home, assisted living facility, nursing home or hospital. Ideally, terminally ill patients get to decide where they live out the remaining months of their life, but it may be helpful for them to discuss the level of care they will need with their doctor and whether or not a hospice team can provide it at home. 

Related post: 5 Ways to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Who is eligible for hospice care?

Patients are eligible for hospice care when they have a terminal illness, and their doctor has determined they have six months or less left to live. If a patient lives longer than six months, they can stay in hospice care as long as their doctor re-certifies that they are terminally ill. 

How do you know it’s time for hospice? 

When a patient enters hospice, attempts to cure their illness stop. This can be a difficult call to make, so how do you know it’s time to start hospice? According to the New England Medical Journal, hospice care “becomes appropriate when curative treatments are no longer beneficial, when the burden of these treatments exceed their benefits, or when the patients are entering the last weeks to months of life.” Even with these guidelines, it can be hard to know when to start hospice, so below are signs that indicate it might be time to talk to their doctor about hospice care.

  • There has been no improvement to their terminal illness, despite treatment
  • Frequent trips to the emergency room
  • Frequent pain that’s difficult to treat
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Difficulty or labored breathing
  • Frequent infections
  • Rapid decline of mental abilities 

How do you pay for hospice?

When facing the death of a loved one, the last thing anyone wants to think about is how to pay for end-of-life care. However, because hospice services are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, the vast majority of people who require hospice care are able to afford it. With that being said, in order for Medicare to cover hospice services, you’ll need to choose a medicare-approved hospice provider. You can find medicare approved providers near you here.  Additionally, many insurance plans cover hospice costs as well. 

Who works on a hospice team? 

A variety of trained professionals work on a hospice team, including: 

  • Doctors-your primary care doctor and hospice medical care doctor work together
  • Nurses-hospice nurses visit the patient frequently to assess medical needs and administer medical care
  • Social workers-a hospice social worker can help families cope with financial, social, and emotional issues
  • Chaplain-a hospice chaplain often provides emotional support 
  • Bereavement specialist-help the patient and their family process grief
  • Hospice aids-assist with personal care, meals, dressing, and more

How does hospice help families of the terminally ill?

Hospice takes a holistic approach to care, and therefore many hospice services directly support the terminally ill patient’s family. The burden of caring for a loved one during the end of their life often falls on family members. Hospice aids can help ease the burden by providing assistance with personal care, including preparing meals, bathing, dressing and more. Hospice social workers can connect families to resources and programs that provide financial assistance, such as Medicare, Medicaid and veteran assistance benefits. Hospice workers can help make funeral arrangements and establish advance directives. Hospice chaplains and bereavement specialists often lend emotional support and can help family members process their grief.  

Feeling overwhelmed by the hospice process? 

We can help. At Integrity Home Care and Hospice, we’ll walk you through the hospice process and answer any questions you may have. Our caring and dedicated team will create a hospice care plan that is tailored to meet the needs of your loved one. To get started, contact us online or give us a call today. 

A patient receives hospice care