What is Hospice Care?
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You’ve probably heard hospice care and palliative care used interchangeably. While each type of care is similar in many ways, the short hospice definition is “end of life care.”
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) defines a hospice a little more broadly as a service that “focuses on caring, not curing and in most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home.”
Palliative care, on the other hand, offers a similar type of care but is often used with curative treatment. Although the hospice care definition seems pretty straightforward, hospice has meaning to different people in different ways.
Find Hospice Near You by State and City
If you’re interested in using hospice for a loved one, and his or her doctor feels that it’s a good fit, ask the doctor for some recommendations. If your loved one lives in an assisted living or nursing home facility, you can also ask the administrator for recommendations. Friends and family who have also used hospice care may have some helpful advice as well.
Smaller towns and cities may not have hospice care available, but larger cities nearby often have a variety of hospice options.
Browse Hospice Care By State
Who is Eligible for Hospice Care?
Many people define hospice as a service that is solely for elderly individuals who are terminally ill. While many people over the age of 55 use hospice, anyone of regardless of age, religion, race, or illness, may benefit from the care as long as they qualify.
The best way to determine whether or not your loved one is eligible for hospice is to make an appointment with his or her doctor. If your loved one’s prognosis is six months or less left to live, he or she is eligible for hospice care. A terminal illness with a longer prognosis is likely to be treated with palliative care.
What Does Hospice Care Involve?
You may be wondering what hospice care is like and who administers the care. The care plan is different for every individual and is often customized to make it the most comfortable care possible. The care provided also depends on whether or not the patient is at home, in a hospital, or in a hospice center.
Typically, someone serves as a primary caregiver; this person is usually a spouse, adult child, or another family member. The main caregiver is the person who makes decisions on behalf of the individual receiving hospice care (if he or she is unable to decide).
Through regular visits, the hospice staff monitors the patient and provides extra care or services when needed. While many families, who have a loved one in hospice, prefer to have alone time and do most of the care themselves, the staff is on-call and available 24/7.
The hospice team creates a care plan that is unique to the patient’s needs and can include anything from pain management to spiritual counseling. A hospice team often includes:
- The patient’s primary doctor
- Nurses and home health aides
- Social worker
- Clergy or spiritual counselor
- Trained hospice volunteers
- Speech, occupational, and physical therapists
- Bereavement counselors
In addition to creating a plan for the patient, the hospice team often works closely with the family and shows them how to provide adequate care and offer counseling and support to family and close friends.
Where is Hospice Care Issued?
Depending on where your loved one lives and the type of care that’s needed, he or she can receive hospice care at home, at a specialized facility, or in the hospital. A patient who requires extensive medical care and monitoring may benefit from hospice care in a care center, hospital, or even a skilled nursing facility.
While at-home hospice care is preferred by many, it may not be a long-term option. If extra care is needed and becomes too difficult for the visiting hospice team, a move to a facility may be encouraged.
Whether your loved one receives hospice care at home or in the hospital, the hospice team works together to make him or her feel comfortable and “at home” as much as possible.
How Much Does Hospice Cost?
Figuring out the cost of hospice care may be a little overwhelming, but hospice care programs help you every step of the way and will help you find the most affordable care option. Keep in mind that the costs will vary depending on the individual and his or her needs.
Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other private insurance typically pay for hospice care. If your loved one is planning on using hospice, you must make sure the care or facility is accepting his or her insurance plan first.
It’s also important, before committing to hospice care, that you find out what will be covered and what won’t. Medicare hospice benefits, for example, will cover most of the costs in the care plan. It will not cover costs like room and board or any curative treatments.
Common out-of-pocket costs include prescription drugs that may not be covered by insurance and room and board. At-home care costs typically cost about $150 a day, and skilled care facilities cost around $700 a day.
Benefits of Hospice
As a primary caregiver or someone who is terminally ill, the idea of end-of-life care can be difficult to think about and may feel like an overwhelming process. If you or your loved one is eligible for hospice care, it’s a good idea to look into it even if you’re unsure whether or not you want the care.
Hospice care is full of benefits that can help the individual and his or her family and friends. A terminal illness can be physically and mentally exhausting for the patient and his or her family. When an individual’s prognosis is six months or less, he or she deserves to have quality time with family and specialized care that will make him or her feel as comfortable as possible.
Some benefits of hospice care for the patient include:
- Receiving care in a familiar or comfortable setting
- Respecting an individual’s wishes when making end-of-life decisions
- Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual support
- Fewer financial worries
Benefits for the Caregiver and Family
Not only does hospice care benefit a patient but it also helps out the primary caregiver and other members of the family. Caring for someone, 24/7, can be exhausting and hospice care allows the caregiver a little break.
Hospice staff can also help a caregiver and his or her family the right guidance they need when it comes to saying “goodbye” to someone they love. Death affects everyone differently, and counseling can help someone work through some emotions that are hard to articulate or work through.
FAQ About Hospice
End-of-life care is difficult to think about and even harder to discuss. Gathering the most information you can about hospice can help make the process a little easier when the time comes.
When Should We Start Talking About Hospice?
People often shy away from discussing death because it’s “too morose or depressing.” While it’s not a fun topic to discuss, it’s an important one. Whether you’re an adult child of an aging parent or are a middle-aged married person, it’s never too early to talk about hospice.
If you’ve already talked about other end-of-life decisions such as “do not resuscitate” or organ donation, make hospice part of the discussion, too. While everyone hopes that they will pass away peacefully in their sleep, a terminal illness can change life plans. Whether you will need hospice care or not, it’s an option to consider.
How Soon Does Hospice Care Start?
If you are eligible for hospice care, the care usually begins within a day or two of a referral. If your situation is urgent, your hospice care may begin sooner, but in these particular situations, the individual receiving care will be in a hospital or similar facility.
What Do Hospice Volunteers Do?
Hospice volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team. While some volunteers may be retired or have previous experience in the medical field, many volunteers are just people who want to lend a helping hand during a difficult time.
Volunteers go through an extensive training program where they learn about everything from the importance of confidentiality to grief support. The volunteers are there to help the family and patient any way they are able to so if you need help with running errands, some light housework, or just someone to talk to, hospice volunteers fulfill those needs.
I Know That Care Facilities are Inspected and Evaluated. What about Hospices?
Hospice programs must meet specific state licensure requirements in order to deliver care to a terminally ill individual. They must also meet federal regulations to be reimbursed by Medicare. Care facilities, such as hospice centers, have frequent inspections and stay up-to-date for optimum safety and quality of care to a patient.