The term 'hospice' gets tossed around a lot (often incorrectly) and is almost always equated with death rather than life. A great many (misinformed) assumptions are made about hospice, and therefore many people - if not most, in fact - do not really know what it is or understand it.
Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans have coverage for hospice. Hospice is covered by Medicare Parts A, B, and C.
So... Hospice - What is it?
- Foremost, hospice care does NOT mean that all treatment stops.
- It does NOT mean giving up and it is NOT a death sentence.
- It requires a diagnosis of 6 months or less of life remaining.
- It requires consent and enrollment, it is not automatic. It is also always a choice. Your loved one may leave hospice at any time, as well as return later.
- Care is provided by a hospice company and overseen by an RN that specializes in hospice. The care team consists of many healthcare professionals, though, all experts or certified in hospice care. Family caregivers are also included on the hospice care team!
- Quality and comfort are the priorities. Care focuses on relief of pain and other troublesome symptoms, as well as mental and emotional well-being.
- Care does not seek to cure the serious and life-limiting condition, and requires that curative treatments for the serious illness only be weened/stopped, usually within 30 days.
- It does require a do not resuscitate order (in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest, CPR or other life-saving measures will not be performed).
- Hospice provides physical, mental, and emotional end-of-life support for your loved one and the family, including education and discussion on the dying process.
- Hospice provides increased comfort care at the end-of-life, which is more than just morphine.
- Services are provided wherever the person resides: home, assisted living, nursing home, long-term care, even inpatient (in a hospital) in some cases.
- You are encouraged to contact the hospice RN first to report any changes, events, or concerns.
- Events or injuries not related to hospice WILL still be evaluated and treated (a bone fracture, wound, or infection, for example).
- It is best to talk directly with a hospice professional, as your loved one's provider may not have all the information and details you need.
- Asking for information and details from a hospice provider, or requesting a formal hospice consult, is always free and very helpful. Hospice professionals are sensitive, considerate, and never pushy. They will not try to sell you on their service.
See also: Caregiving Challenges: Palliative Care