Hospice Care: Here's What You Need to Know

insurance long term care Mar 20, 2023

Hospice is a type of healthcare service that focuses on providing comfort and support to individuals who have a life-limiting illness or condition.  Hospice care can be provided at home, in a hospice facility, or in other settings, and it is designed to help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life during their final months.

Contrary to some misconceptions, there are many hospice agencies, and they offer a range of services to support individuals and their families.  Hospice is not just for the end of life, and it does not mean that all medications or treatments will be discontinued.  Additionally while hospice can involve pain management with medications like morphine the goal is to provide comfort and relieve suffering rather than hastening death.

There are four levels of hospice care, including routine home care, continuous home care, general inpatient care, and respite care.  Routine home care is the most common level of hospice care and involves care provided at home by a hospice team.   Continuous home care is for individuals who are experiencing a crisis and need around-the-clock care in their home.  General inpatient care is for individuals who need short-term care in a hospital or hospice facility, while respite care provides temporary relief for caregivers. 

Hospice is appropriate for individuals who have a life-limiting illness or condition and have a prognosis of six months or less.  Hospice care can be initiated by a physician or other healthcare provider, and it is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans.  If an individual no longer meets the criteria for hospice care or their condition improves, they may be discharged from hospice and receive other forms of care.

Palliative care is similar to hospice care in that it focuses on providing comfort and relief from symptoms, but it is not limited to individuals with life-limiting illness.  Palliative care is provided at any stage of an illness and can be used alongside other treatments aimed at curing or managing the underlying condition.

Not all hospice agencies are under one umbrella, and they may differ in terms of the services they offer, the type of conditions they specialize in, and their approach to care.  When selecting a hospice agency, it is important to consider factors such as their accreditation, experience, and reputation.

Hospice can involve the use of durable medical equipment (DME) such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen, as well as procedures such as feeding tubes and wound care.  These services are intended to provide comfort and quality of life.

The length of time someone requires hospice care can vary widely and depends on factors such as their underlying condition, the effectiveness of their treatment, and their overall health.  Some individuals may only receive hospice care or a few days or weeks, while others may receive care for several months.

Once an individual qualifies for hospice benefits, they do not need to re-qualify, but their care will be periodically reassessed to ensure that they continue to meet the criteria for hospice care.

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