Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about hospice care. You can find more information in our article – Debunking Hospice Care Myths: Uncovering the Truth About Compassionate Care, as well as other articles in our blog.

Who is eligible for hospice care?

Patients of any age are eligible for hospice care. Two physicians must certify that the patient’s condition is terminal and that their life expectancy is less than six months if the disease progresses at a typical rate. Additionally, the patient or their representative must understand the prognosis and that hospice entails comfort care rather than active treatment for the underlying disease.

How do I pay for hospice care?

Most people receiving services are covered by the Medicare hospice benefit, and most insurance companies and Medicaid also cover hospice care. This minimizes out-of-pocket expenses for the patient and family.

Where are services available?

Hospice care may take place in the home of the patient or a loved one or in a facility such as a hospital or assisted living center.

Does hospice only last for six months?

While the initial requirement for being referred to hospice care is that the patient’s life expectancy is less than six months, many patients enjoy the benefits of hospice care longer. The confusion likely stems from the way that Medicare covers hospice; benefit periods are 90 days, and Medicare estimates that people in hospice need only two periods. However, patients are eligible to receive additional care if their terminal diagnosis is recertified after the six-month period.

Can I stop hospice care?

Patients can stop hospice care at any time. Typically, it is possible to re-enter hospice later if the need arises.

Who makes up the hospice care team?

Each patient’s condition and needs are different, but hospice care can involve physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, counselors, home health aides, and volunteers.

Can a patient in hospice care still see their personal doctor?

While hospice care includes physician services, patients can also continue to see their personal physicians.

What services can be provided?

The Medicare hospice benefit covers:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Medical equipment
  • Medications to control pain and other symptoms
  • Home health aides and homemaker services
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Social workers
  • Dietary counseling
  • Emotional and spiritual counseling
  • Short-term inpatient care in a medical facility

How long can someone be in hospice care?

The initial approval for hospice care from Medicare is based on a life expectancy of no more than six months. However, patients surpassing that mark may be eligible for continued hospice care if they are recertified as still likely to die within six months.

What happens after the patient passes?

If a patient passes at home, a plan for what happens after death will be in place. A medical professional will make an official pronouncement and take the steps for a death certificate to be prepared. Arrangements to pick up the body as soon as the family is ready will be made. Funeral or other arrangements can be made as desired.

Where does hospice care take place?

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, most hospice care is provided in the place the patient calls home. Care can also take place in medical facilities like hospitals, assisted living centers, and nursing homes.

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