There may come a time when you or a loved one will begin to consider hospice care. Hospice care can preserve your standard of living, while assisting with the needs of your family as well.
The decision to enter hospice care should be a practical one after looking at your circumstances and working closely with your doctor. There are many facets to the care that you’ll receive, which can be confusing if you’re debating the service. Today, we’ll discuss the important details of hospice care. Going over them now can make all the difference in a stressful time for your family.
What Is Hospice Care?
Colloquially called end-of-life or palliative care by some, hospice care is a form of palliative care available to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness and their family. Unlike other types of care, hospice care doesn’t try to cure an illness. Instead, it aims to maintain an individual’s current quality of life.
Hospice care focuses on pain and symptom management and offers services to help with your emotional and spiritual needs.
Hospice care focuses on pain and symptom management and offers services to help with your emotional and spiritual needs. It’s important to note that choosing to receive hospice care is not giving up on life. Instead, it’s choosing to focus on enjoying the time you have, especially if curative treatments have proven unsuccessful.
What Is Covered?
If you have Medicare coverage, hospice care is covered by Medicare Part A, which usually is used for hospital or health care facility stays. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, hospice care will still be covered by Original Medicare.
A hospice provider will attempt to treat your symptoms and build a team of caregivers that may include nurses, aids, and a doctor, for you.
When you decide to receive hospice care, you’ll have to choose a care provider. These private companies must be Medicare-approved in order to qualify for coverage. A hospice provider will attempt to treat your symptoms and build a team of caregivers that may include nurses, aids, and a doctor, for you. You have the right to request that your doctor is on your team. You cannot receive treatment relating to your terminal illness from other services, unless you change your hospice provider.
Generally, you’ll receive care in your own home since the primary function of hospice is to promote comfort. If your doctor determines that short-term inpatient care is necessary, your hospice provider will have to make the arrangements for Medicare to cover your care and stay. If you go to a care facility without your provider making the arrangements, you will likely be responsible for paying for your care and stay. Note, Medicare will generally not cover your room and board for receiving hospice care in a nursing home or hospice inpatient facility.
Medicare should also cover any prescription drugs that treat the symptoms of or pain from your illness. It won’t cover drugs that aim to cure your illness, though.
When Do You Qualify?
To qualify for hospice care, you must be certified as terminally ill by both a hospice doctor and your primary care physician. Medicare defines terminally ill as having a life expectancy of six months or less.
If you survive beyond the six months, you can still receive Medicare-covered hospice care.
Once you receive this diagnosis, you must accept hospice care, stating that you wish to receive comfort in lieu of curative care, to begin receiving treatment. You’ll then sign a statement confirming this choice. If you survive beyond the six months, you can still receive Medicare-covered hospice care. You’ll simply need to be recertified by your hospice program that you’re terminally ill to continue receiving coverage.
What Can You Expect?
Hospice care seeks to treat the whole person — mind, body and spirit. Not only can your care team try to help with your comfort and pain relief, but they’ll also seek to help you deal with everything that comes with hospice and terminal illness.
Your hospice team should come with social workers and counselors who will try to help you come to terms with your illness and its implications. Their services are also often extended to your family, especially grief counseling. Some service providers will offer music or occupational therapy to help sooth or comfort you. Most will even give you access to spiritual care services, where you can meet with a member of your faith to talk or pray.
The full extent of your hospice care will likely be achieved through the aides who may be a key part of your team. Aides can become some of the most significant members of your team, as they may cook and clean for you. They may also help you maintain good hygiene or simply act as a companion, sitting with you and being a friend when you need one most. Of course, your team’s main focus will be on caring for your comfort and pain.
Hospice care seeks to treat the whole person — mind, body and spirit.
Skilled nurses will also be on your team. The amount of time a skilled nurse can be at your home will depend on your hospice service provider, though most will set up a regular schedule with you. Nurses can give treatment for your wounds, as well as assist with your prescription medications. You should be able to call your nurses for emergency care, but how they respond will also depend on the provider. Remember to ask about these details when choosing a hospice program.
At some point, you may want to end your hospice care. There may be the possibility that your illness improves or goes into remission. Whatever the reason, if you decide to end your care, you’ll need to sign a form including information like your care end date. You should only be asked to sign a form about stopping care when you request to. Once your hospice care ends, you should resume your regular Medicare coverage.
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If you or a loved one receive a terminal diagnosis, it can feel like the sky is falling. The peace of mind that hospice care delivers can make a massive difference for you and your family. The whole person treatment that this care provides can make a chaotic time a little easier and help you and your loved ones find solace. This is the greatest gift that hospice gives. By finding comfort and relief, you can focus on enjoying the time you all have together.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — Medicare Hospice Benefits
Medicare.gov — How hospice works
Medicare.gov — Hospice & respite care