What is Hospice?
Hospice is a healthcare initiative that provides individualized comfort care to patients suffering from life-limiting conditions for which curative care is no longer effective. Sometimes referred to as end of life care, hospice is appropriate for conditions and chronic illnesses such as end-stage cancer, failure to thrive, Alzheimer’s, and many others. Unlike other medical specialties, hospice offers various kinds of support and care for the patient’s family, caregivers and encompasses a wide variety of services and disciplines including:
- Skilled nursing care
- Medical social services and caregiver support
- Physician services
- Spiritual support and counseling
- Home care and homemaker services
- Trained volunteers for support services
- Physical, occupational and speech therapies
- Dietary and nutritional counseling
- 24-hour on-call availability
- Hospice in-patient care
- Bereavement support and grief counseling
- Pain and symptom management
- Continuous care in the home
- All palliative medications, comfort accessories and equipment required by the patient
Who Pays for Hospice?
Hospice is a Medicare benefit. Medicare Part A, Medicaid, and most private insurers fully cover all of the costs associated with hospice care, including all services and goods listed above. The hospice care provider bills these insurers directly at a daily rate fixed by Medicare, sparing the patient and their family an unneeded burden at this already stressful time in their lives. For a complete menu of Medicare hospice benefits, see Services Provided Under the Medicare Hospice Benefit.
How and Where is Hospice Care Provided?
Since the goal of hospice care is to achieve the highest level of comfort for the patient, hospice care comes to the patient’s residence, whether it is a nursing home, assisted living facility, their own home or another.
What is a Living Will?
Also know as an Advance Directive or a Do Not Resuscitate order, a Living Will outlines the patient’s specific wishes with regard to so-called drastic or heroic measures to be undertaken on the patient’s behalf by medical personnel. Typically, a living will indicates what the patient wants done in the event of a poteti that their heart stops during the course of a prolonged, degenerative illness: whether or not they desire CPR or defibrillation to be administered, a feeding tube to be inserted, breathing assistance, etc.
Do I Need a Living Will?
A Living Will is not necessary in order to receive hospice care, nor is it a barrier to care. It is very beneficial, however, to have one.