What is Hospice Care?

Introduction

As the old saying goes, the two things that you can’t avoid are death and taxes. Taxes may be minimized or postponed by creative tax planning, but as Hebrews 9:27 tells us, death is something that we will all face someday, so understanding the role of hospice may help you or someone you love be more prepared to better face that event..

What is hospice care?

Hospice care begins when a doctor makes the assessment that the patient’s illness cannot be cured and that the patient is likely to be within the last six months of his or her life. When that happens, the doctor may recommend hospice care for the patient. In order to begin hospice service, the patient (or the person holding the patient’s healthcare power of attorney) agrees to accept hospice care and to cease any further attempts at curative care.

Hospice service provides “palliative care”. Palliative care means management of the patient’s pain and other symptoms when it is no longer possible to cure the patient’s primary illness. In addition to palliative medical care, hospice care also provides psychological, social and spiritual support for the patient and for the patient’s family and friends, helping them prepare for the death of their loved one.

What services are provided in hospice care?

The goal of hospice care is the achievement of the best quality of life for patients and their families, and therefore hospice services are most often provided in the patient’s own home. However, depending upon the patient’s wishes, hospice care may also be provided at a specialized inpatient hospice unit or at another health facility..

When a patient goes on hospice service, the dying process is openly discussed with the patient and with others that the patient wishes to include, such as family members. The care offered by hospice service includes ongoing help and support for family members for up to one year after the patient passes away.

Who provides hospice care?

Originally, hospice care was mostly provided by non-profit organizations. However, as the size of the hospice care market has grown, it has attracted the for-profit sector as well. Now there are many different organizations that offer hospice service in San Diego County, both non-profit and for-profit, including many that have opened their doors within the past year.

The patient has an absolute right to choose which hospice agency to use, to change hospice agencies if not satisfied, and to revoke hospice service if so desired. In most cases the patient’s doctor recommends one or two hospice agencies for the patient. In order to make a wise choice it is also wise to ask for suggestions from friends and neighbors who have had experience with hospice agencies.

Who pays for hospice care?

In most cases, all the expenses for palliative treatment of the patient’s primary diagnosis are covered by Medicare when the patient is on hospice care. Those covered expenses include medications and home care supplies, as well as the services of nurses, social workers, home health aides and spiritual counseling services.

Hospice does not pay for routine round-the-clock home care. The patient or family has to create a support system that the hospice nurses and other hospice personnel work in as part of the support system. The support system also has to include attendants to help the patient with activities of daily living such as bathing, toileting, dressing and meal preparation. Hospice does not provide nor pay for those attendants, so the attendants can be family members, friends, or caregivers provided by home care agencies. The hospice often can provide a list of home care agencies that provide such caregivers.

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Originally posted 2008-05-13 09:13:00.