What Is Hospice Care?
Hospice care is a type of specialized care for someone who is suffering from a terminal illness, usually with a life expectancy under six months. The care focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life during their remaining time, on reducing their pain and making them as comfortable as possible, without attempting to cure the disease. It usually includes emotional and spiritual support as well, in addition to attending to the physical needs of the patient.
Hospice services can be provided in the terminally ill person’s home or in a residential hospice facility, hospital, nursing home or other long-term care facility.
Hospice care in the home can be provided for the duration of the person’s life or only during those times when the patient has a crisis and needs more care than their family member or other caregiver can provide.
Hospice care provided in a residential facility can be provided when the patient’s symptoms can no longer be controlled at home, or can be used for respite care, when the regular caregiver needs a break or can’t cope with the situation.
What Is Hospice Care Like?
When you need hospice care, an entire team is usually assigned to work with you. This team will develop a unique care plan just for you to help control any symptoms or pain you may experience, and to provide you with the emotional or spiritual support you need.
The hospice team usually consists of your family, regular caregiver if you have one, your personal physician, a hospice doctor, nurses, home health aides, social workers, counselors and spiritual caregivers. Sometimes your team may include volunteers and other professionals like speech or physical therapists, if you need this type of therapy.
When you receive hospice care, your hospice team will make regular visits to check on you. and provide additional care or other services as needed. Members of the team are usually on call around the clock, seven days a week. This applies regardless of whether you are receiving care at home, in a nursing home, or some other type of long-term care facility.
Hospice care is usually covered 100% by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. Under Medicare, hospice care covers medications, medical equipment, access to care around the clock, nursing, social services, and grief support, and possibly other services that are seen as necessary based on your needs.
What to Expect from Hospice Care?
Hospice care will vary depending on each individual’s specific needs. These will be determined by your hospice team and spelled out in a care plan customized for you. Hospice care often includes the following as needed:
- Physician services
- Regular visits by registered nurses and licensed practical nurses to monitor your condition, to provide care and to make sure you are comfortable
- Home health aide and homemaker services to take care of personal needs
- Chaplain services for you and your loved ones
- Social work and counseling services
- Grief counseling for your family and friends
- Medical equipment such as a hospital bed
- Medical supplies such as catheters
- Medications to control any symptoms or pain
- Volunteer support
- Physical, speech and occupational therapy
- Alternative therapies like music therapy
- Dietary counseling
Levels of Care and Costs for Hospice Care
Hospice care is usually provided and the costs covered based on the following four levels established by Medicare:
- Routine Home Care: This end-of-life care is provided when the patient’s symptoms are under control at their place of residence, whether they are in their own private home, or in assisted living, a nursing home or other type of long-term care facility.
- Crisis Care: This type of care is provided for short periods of time when the patient experiences a medical or psychosocial crisis. This is typically provided at the patient’s residence, in a nursing home or in a hospice facility.
- Inpatient Respite Care: This type of care is provided when the family or other caregiver needs a break. The patient can be temporarily placed in a hospice facility for up to five days.
- General Inpatient Care: This type of care is provided by hospice centers, hospital’s and nursing homes when the patient’s symptoms can’t be controlled at home.