Hospice - Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible for hospice care services?
The hospice benefit is intended primarily for any individual with a terminal illness whose life expectancy is six months or less should the illness run its usual course. However, the Medicare program recognizes that not all terminal illnesses have a predictable course; therefore, the benefit is available for extended periods of time beyond 6 months.
Isn’t all hospice care the same?
Not exactly, even within the same community, hospice may vary in the quality of care provided. Ask questions and seek the advice of friends or healthcare providers you trust to help you choose the hospice agency that is right for you.
Can patients receive curative treatments while on hospice care service?
While the Medicare Hospice Benefit (MHB) requires beneficiaries to forgo curative treatments, some hospices will assist in placing patients into a palliative home health program until the patient is ready for hospice.
Does entering hospice mean you’ve given up hope?
Quite the contrary. Hospice and hospice care workers help patients to focus on what they hope and wish for in terms of comfort and quality of life. Along with their family members, a hospice patient has a lead role in their plan of care and their level of comfort. Hospice neither hastens nor prevents death. As studies have shown, hospice patients live 29 days longer on average than those without the benefit of hospice care.
Does hospice care rely on heavy-duty pain medications to control patient comfort?
Hospice care is designed to provide not only medical care but also social, psychological, and spiritual support delivered by an interdisciplinary team that includes a nurse, social worker, spiritual counselor, and other professionals. While pain medications can be a part of a patient’s overall plan of care, many other forms of pain and stress relief are included such as music and even pet therapy.
Will there be someone with me 24/7?
Hospice care is available “on call” after the administrative offices have closed, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. However, a hospice worker will not be with you 24/7 unless you are in crisis and care will then be provided until your condition is stabilized.
Can I still receive hospice care if I reside in a nursing facility or other type of long-term facility?
Hospice services can be provided to the terminally ill patient wherever they live. This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility can receive specialized visits from hospice staff. The hospice and the nursing home will have a written agreement in place in order for hospice to serve residents of the facility.
What if my physician doesn’t know about or refer me to hospice?
Most physicians know about hospice. However, if your physician does not, or would like to receive more information about the program, it is available by calling our hospice agency, the National Hospice Palliative Care Association (800-658-8898), and/or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service Hospice Center (www.cms.hhs.gov/centerhospice.asp).
Can I keep my personal physician if I choose hospice?
Yes. You may keep your personal physician while under the care of hospice. Hospice reinforces the primary care physician/patient relationship and considers the bond to be a high priority.
Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?
Yes. If a patient’s condition improves or the disease goes into remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice and returned to regular medical treatment such as home health. Likewise, should the patient ever need to return to hospice in the future, these services can be resumed at the patient’s request.
Is hospice only for cancer patients?
No, it is available for anyone who has a terminal or life-limiting diagnosis with a life expectancy of 6 months or less if the disease runs its normal course.
Are hospice care services expensive?
In general, hospice costs less than hospital or nursing home care and saves significant money for Medicare. Medicare and many other private insurance plans cover the costs of hospice services. Also, the cost of medications related to the hospice diagnosis is covered by the hospice benefit at no charge to the patient.