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What is Hospice?

  • Hospice care focuses on pain control and symptom management, allowing individuals facing life-limiting illnesses to die in comfort, peace, and control of their care and surroundings.
  • In hospice, the focus shifts from treatments aimed at a cure to medical care intended to provide comfort and support for patients and their families. A fundamental belief in hospice care is that everyone has the right to die pain-free and with dignity.
  • An interdisciplinary team of professionals addressing physical, psychosocial, and spiritual distress focused on the dying person and their entire family.

When is it time for Hospice?

Deciding when it’s time for hospice is difficult and should be discussed with loved ones and a physician. It is generally time for hospice when:

  • According to a physician, the patient has six months or less to live.
  • The patient is rapidly declining despite medical treatment (weight loss, mental status decline, inability to perform activities of daily living).
  • The patient is ready to live more comfortably and forego
    treatments to prolong life.

How does Medicare determine if your loved one is eligible for services?

  • To receive hospice services, a hospice physician and a second physician (often the individual’s attending physician or specialist) must certify that the patient meets specific medical eligibility criteria; generally, the patient’s life expectancy is 6 months or less if the illness, disease or condition runs its typical course.
  • Suppose the individual lives longer than six months and their condition continues to decline. In that case, they may be recertified by a physician or nurse practitioner for additional time in hospice care.
  • If a hospice patient’s condition improves, they may be discharged from hospice care. The patient is eligible for hospice again if their condition begins to decline.

What types of services are offered?

The vast majority of hospices follow Medicare requirements to provide the following, as necessary, to manage the illness for which someone receives hospice care:

  • Time and services of the care team, including visits to the patient’s location by the hospice physician, nurse, medical social worker, home health aide and chaplain/spiritual adviser
  • Medication for symptom control or pain relief
  • Medical equipment like wheelchairs or walkers and medical supplies like bandages and catheters
  •  Physical and occupational therapy
  • Speech-language pathology services
  • Dietary counseling
  • Any other Medicare-covered services needed to manage pain and other symptoms related to the terminal illness, as recommended by the hospice team
  • Short-term inpatient care (e.g. when adequate pain and symptom management cannot be achieved in the home setting)
  • Short-term respite care (e.g. temporary relief from caregiving to avoid or address “caregiver burnout”)
  • Grief and loss counseling for patient and loved ones

What is not covered?

The Medicare Hospice Benefit does not cover all services provided to patients enrolled in hospice care. The benefit will not pay for:

  • Treatment intended to cure your terminal illness or unrelated to that illness
  • Prescription drugs to cure your illness or unrelated to that illness
  • Room and board in a nursing home or residential hospice facility
  • Care in an emergency room, inpatient facility care, or ambulance transportation, unless it is either arranged by the hospice team or is unrelated to the terminal illness

Is hospice only for people diagnosed with cancer?

It is not surprising that people often associate hospice with cancer. In the mid-1970s, when hospice came to the U.S., most hospice patients had cancer. Today, more than half of hospice patients have other illnesses for which they are medically eligible for hospice services, such as late-stage heart, lung, or kidney disease, and advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Can my loved one receive hospice services at home?

Hospice services are provided in the setting the patient calls home, which may be their private residence or that of a loved one, a hospital, assisted living center, or a nursing home

Can I still use my own doctor?

Yes, hospice physicians work closely with each patient’s personal physician to determine a hospice plan of care tailored to meet each patient’s needs and wishes.

What if I enter hospice and then change my mind?

If a person changes their mind about hospice care, they can be discharged from hospice and seek curative treatment. Patients do not lose their Medicare benefits if they are discharged from hospice care to resume curative care.

Does Bloom Hospice serve veterans?

As a partner in the national “We Honor Veterans” program, Bloom Hospice is uniquely qualified to meet the needs of veterans.

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