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What is hospice care?

Hospice is an end-of-life care option that provides dying patients and their loved ones comfort, compassion, and dignity. Hospice, an established philosophy and concept of care for the terminally ill, is an innovative approach in health care.

Hospice, the model for quality, compassionate end-of-life care involves a team approach of expert medical care, pain and symptom management, as well as emotional and spiritual support specifically tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Support for the patient’s loved ones is critical and considered paramount. The belief that everyone has the right to die pain free, with dignity, rests at the core of the hospice philosophy.

Hospice embraces the quality of life rather than the quantity. Hospice care is appropriate for any one suffering from a terminal illness that wishes to receive palliative care rather than curative care.

What admission criteria is necessary to receive hospice care?

  • A terminal illness with less than six months to live if the disease runs its normal course
  • No plans to pursue aggressive treatment
  • Patient agrees to receive hospice care

Who can make a hospice referral?

Although many referrals are made by physicians, any person can refer a patient to hospice…friends, family or clergy. The hospice staff will then contact your physician to determine if a referral to hospice is appropriate. Hospice will then consult the patient and family to discuss if hospice is the most appropriate option for their needs.

When should hospice be discussed?

It is important to discuss all care options at the time an illness is diagnosed as terminal. Now is the best time to learn more about hospice care and ask questions about what to expect. A decision to pursue hospice is less challenging if you are aware of the patient’s wishes.

What are some indications that someone may be in need of more comprehensive care such as hospice?

  • Frequent hospitalizations
  • Progressive decline despite curative treatment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Diminished functional status

Where is hospice care given?

Hospice is a philosophy, not a physical structure. Hospice care is provided wherever the patient call home, whether they are in his or her own home or in a nursing facility setting.

Is hospice intended only for people nearing death?

One key piece of feedback we hear from our families is that “We wish we had known about hospice sooner.” Although Medicare requires that one must have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live if the disease runs its normal course, there is not a set amount of time that one can utilize the hospice benefit. The patient can continue with hospice services as long as they meet criteria guidelines that are set in place.

Does electing hospice mean giving up hope?

Hospice does not hasten nor prolong one’s life. Research has proven that those that utilize hospice care typically live a longer life than those that go through the dying process alone.

Who pays for hospice care?

Hospice care is paid for 100% by Medicare, Medicaid and most HMO’s. Hospice can be very cost efficient by eliminating co-pays of drugs or equipment related to their terminal diagnosis. Many dollars are saved each year by avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations when an inpatient setting is no longer required.

Is there a requirement that the patient must be bedridden to receive hospice care?

Hospice actually encourages all patients to continue to live life as normal as possible. Although emerged in the dying process, all patients are free to enjoy their remaining days as they please.

Are heavy doses of narcotics dispensed when admitted on hospice?

The relief of pain is our main priority. The medications of hospice patients are carefully monitored by the case manager, primary physician, as well as the hospice medical director to ensure the optimal balance of comfort and alertness.

Is a do-not-resuscitate order required to elect the hospice benefit?

All patients and families are educated of the possible consequences of having or not having a DNR, but ultimately, it is their choice.