Most Frequently Asked Questions About Hospice Care
Hospice is a special way of caring for people who are terminally ill or suffering a life limiting illness. Hospice care also helps the family and caregivers of people receiving hospice care. This care includes physical, spiritual, and psychological care. A public or private agency approved by Medicare may provide hospice care. Hospice care is for all age groups during their final stages of life. The goal of Lakeside Hospice is to care for you and your family with the comfort of knowing they will be cared for with dignity and respect.
Your doctor and the hospice will work with you and your family to set up a plan of care that meets your needs. The care that hospice provides you is meant to help you make the most of the last months of life by providing comfort and relief from pain. The focus is on care, not cure. As a hospice patient, a team of clinical and professional staff will help take care of you. They include your family, a doctor, nurses, counselors, social worker, home health aides, and trained volunteers.
You may receive hospice care as long as your doctor certifies that you are terminally ill and probably have less than six months to live. Many hospice patients live longer than six months, especially if diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As a hospice patient, you may receive hospice care for two 90-day periods followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods. At the start of each period of care, your doctor must certify that you are terminally ill for you to continue receiving hospice care. A period of care starts the day you begin hospice care. It ends when your 90 or 60-day period of care ends. If your doctor recertifies you as terminally ill, your care continues through another period of care.
Sometimes a terminally ill patient’s health improves or their illness goes into remission. If that happens, your doctor may feel that you no longer need hospice care and will not recertify you at that time. You also have the right to discontinue hospice care, for any reason. If you stop your hospice care, you will receive the type of Medicare coverage that you had before electing hospice (such as the Original Medicare Plan or a Medicare + Choice Plan). If you are eligible, you doctor can return to hospice care at any time.
The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professionals, clergy, or friends.
Your hospice provider will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment, and arrange to obtain equipment for delivery your home, most often within less than twenty-four hours. Often the need for medical equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient and safe as possible. At Lakeside Hospice, one of our goals is to help people stay in their homes where they are comfortable and close to family and caregivers.
In the early weeks of care, it is usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. However, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally encourages someone to be there continuously. While family and friends are usually the primary caregivers, hospices do provide respite volunteers to assist with errands and to provide a break and time away for caregivers.
It is never easy and sometimes may be quite hard. At the end of a long, progressive illness, nights in particular may be very long and lonely. Therefore, hospices have staff available around the clock to consult with the family and to make night visits as appropriate.
Hospices do nothing either to speed up or to slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any insurance coverage that they may not be aware. Hospice care is a benefit under Medicare, Medicaid, and most other private insurances. Barring this, some hospices will provide care for those who cannot pay, using money raised from the community, foundation grants or non-profit resources.
- Home visits by specially trained hospice nurses.
- Pain management and symptom control.
- Personal hygiene care from certified home health aides.
- All medications related to the terminal diagnosis.
- All specialized therapies required for the terminal diagnosis.
- Psychosocial, spiritual, and grief support services.
Any illness where cure is not currently possible, including but not limited to:
- Alzheimer’s disease / Dementia
- Congestive Heart Failure
- End Stage Heart Disease
- Renal Disease
- Liver Disease
- Neurological disorder – Stroke / Coma
- Respiratory Disease / COPD
- Failure to thrive
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
If you think your loved one and family might benefit from the support of weekly home visits from staff who specialize in pain control and easing of stress, ask your doctor if hospice might be something to consider now, or in the near future.
Lakeside Hospice takes pride in providing patients with dignified, comfortable, end of life care. It is often difficult for the family to make the decision to request hospice care for their loved one, and occasionally even physicians find a hospice referral hard to make. No one wants to face the reality of an illness, especially a terminal illness. For maximum quality of life, hospice care should be considered in a timely manner in order for the patient and family to benefit from hospice services.