When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made?At any time during a life-limiting illness, it's appropriate to discuss all of a patient's care options, including hospice. Most hospices accept patients who have an estimated life expectancy of six months or less and who are referred by their personal physician. Hospice care is most effective in pain control and family support services when it is utilized over a period of several months. We recommend that when further medical intervention for aggressive curative treatment will not prolong the patient's life, hospice should be contacted so that we may explain the program and its benefits to the patient and family.
Who is eligible for hospice care?Any person whose attending physician or, if you do not have an attending physician, the hospice Medical Director, will certify that if the disease they have runs its normal course, it will likely result in a terminal outcome within six months. Although the initial period of eligibility is six months, the patient can be re-certified by their attending physician or the hospice Medical Director for ongoing periods of eligibility in 60-day increments. Should the patient improve, and no longer need hospice care, the benefit can be resumed at any time the patient again becomes medically eligible for hospice care.
How and when do I talk to my doctor about hospice care?One of the greatest barriers to hospice is the inability of the patient and physician to discuss the need for hospice. Studies have found that prior to experiencing hospice, even when it is obvious that further curative measures will be futile, most people view hospice as "giving up," when in reality it is simply utilizing the last months of one's life to the fullest. We encourage anyone with a terminal illness to bring up the subject of hospice with their physician, or to call us for further information.
If your physician would like more information about hospice, we can visit his/her office directly, or we would be happy to send out information upon request (see our Link to Physician Education).
Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?Yes. If the patient's condition improves and the disease goes into remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on to return to their daily life. If the discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.
Is hospice care only for the elderly or only for certain health conditions?No, Hospice is for anyone facing a life-limiting illness, regardless of age or type of disease.
Does all health care treatment end when I enter hospice?No, but the focus is on the treatment of symptoms and pain control rather than cure.
Can I stay at home if I enter a hospice program?Hospice care can be provided in your home or a family member's, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility. To receive hospice at home, however, there must be someone available to act as your caregiver on a 24/7 basis when you can no longer care for yourself. If you do not have a caregiver, we can try to help you find an alternative caregiving solution.
Does entering a hospice program mean "giving up"?No. Hospice care allows patients to live their lives more fully, and without pain until the end of their lives.
Studies have found that in some instances it is possible that patients may have lived longer with hospice than they would have in a traditional hospital setting. While it is not known whether this is a response to better pain control, or if it is simply that the patient remains more actively involved in day to day living or home-like setting, it is a phenomenon seen often by hospice personnel.
Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?No. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones dying. Hospice care provides symptom management and pain control.
Is hospice care affiliated with any religious organization?No. While some churches and religious groups have started hospices, hospices serve a broad community and do not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs.
How is hospice different from Home Health?Home Health cannot provide Medicare covered hospice services such as beds, oxygen, commodes, etc., drugs for pain and symptom control, inpatient care for family respite, bereavement support, volunteer availability, or hospice continuity of care. While many of the services that hospice offers, such as bathing, light housekeeping are similar to Home Health, there are significant differences and we provide assistance in helping you understand the benefits of each.