Hospice is end-of-life care. Many people associate hospice with cancer patients who no longer wish to receive treatment, but hospice care is an option for anyone with 6 months or fewer to live.
When you decide to start hospice, treatments meant to cure your condition or extend your life will stop. Instead, you’ll receive care intended to relieve your pain and make the time you have remaining as comfortable as possible.
When a person receives a terminal diagnosis, they can choose to receive hospice care.
Hospice is medical care designed for the end of someone’s life. The purpose of hospice is to improve the quality of life that’s left. Hospice provides pain and other symptom relief, as well as emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual help to support you and your family.
There are four types, or levels, of hospice care:
- Routine home care. Routine home care is the standard level of most hospice care. When you receive routine home care, your hospice team will come to where you live to provide nursing, therapeutic, spiritual, and other care. Your hospice team will coordinate this schedule with you and your family.
- Continuous home care. If you’re having a medical emergency or need around-the-clock care, your hospice team will provide continuous home care. For example, if you were experiencing severe pain that wasn’t relieved by your current medications, a nurse might stay with you for an extended period of time to resolve the issue.
- General inpatient care. Some symptoms can’t be managed at your home. In this case, the hospice physician might recommend an inpatient hospice stay. At an inpatient hospice center, symptoms are addressed so that the patient can return to receiving routine hospice care at home.
- Respite care. Respite care is short-term care that provides a break to family caregivers. When you receive respite care, you’ll stay at an inpatient hospice or a skilled nursing facility for a set period of time. Respite care can help family members who need to travel, are having their own health concerns, or simply need a break from full-time caregiving.
The hospice care level won’t affect the quality of the care you receive. Your setting might change temporarily, but your plan of care won’t. All Medicare-certified hospice providers are required to provide these four care levels, but they don’t all provide them the same way.
The goal of hospice care is to help a person who has a terminal diagnosis have the highest possible quality of life. Instead of performing tests and procedures, hospice care provides relief from pain or other symptoms, as well as emotional and spiritual support.
Once you enter hospice services, a primary caregiver is appointed — typically a family member or close friend. This person will work closely with your care team to communicate your needs and develop a customized plan.
Your care team will consist of healthcare professionals including:
- nursing assistants
- physical therapists
- occupational therapists
- speech therapists
- social workers
- medical chaplains
The exact services you receive will depend on your condition, needs, and preferences, but may include:
- medication for pain relief
- medication to manage other symptoms
- mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers
- medical supplies you need for care at home
- treatments to relieve symptoms and pain
- grief counseling and emotional support for you and your family
- care coordination
- assistance with bathing, eating, and other activities of daily living
Generally, you’ll stay where you currently live to receive hospice care. Care team members will come to you as needed throughout the week and will be available 24/7 if you have additional needs. The hospice care plan is built around you and your needs.
Your family will be part of the process and will also receive support. The hospice team will monitor you and adjust your care as your illness progresses.
Hospice care starts at the end of your life. When you enroll in hospice care, you agree to stop treatments aimed at curing your condition. You, your family, and your healthcare provider can discuss when it might be time for hospice care. You’ll normally need to meet these criteria:
- A doctor states you have 6 months or fewer to live.
- You’re actively declining and no medical treatments are helping.
- You’re ready to stop treating your condition.
Hospice services are reevaluated every 6 months. Your care will continue if you’re still declining and hospice is still appropriate. If hospice care is no longer right for you, the care can stop. You’ll be able to restart hospice care at a later time if you need to.
You can receive hospice care in a number of settings. Most hospice care is done where you live. That can mean several things depending on your situation. You could receive hospice care:
- in your home
- in the home of a relative or other caregiver
- at an assisted living facility
- at a skilled nursing facility
You can also receive hospice care at an inpatient hospice center. CHP operates an inpatient hospice center in Defiance where you can live at the facility the entire time you’re receiving hospice care.
No matter where you receive hospice, care is available to you 24/7.
You can get hospice coverage with most private insurance. The exact amount covered will depend on your plan. You can check with your plan before you enroll in hospice if you’re not sure.
You’ll also have hospice coverage if you have a government insurance program such as a Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, or Healthcare Marketplace plan.
Many plans will cover your hospice costs at 100 percent. However, there might be eligibility rules. For example, you’ll need to choose a Medicare-approved hospice provider if you’re planning to use Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan for your coverage.
You can also pay out-of-pocket if you don’t have any type of insurance. CHP Hospice works with families regardless of financial situation.
Hospice care is available no matter your insurance or financial situation. The CHP Hospice team can help you figure out your insurance, set up a payment plan, arrange for assistance, and help you explore all your options.
Most people who need hospice are able to have it. There are many options to help cover the costs, such as:
- Medicare. Medicare coverage includes hospice care.
- Veterans’ Administration (VA) benefits. If you’re a veteran, your VA benefits cover hospice care.
- Medicaid. If you have Medicaid coverage, you must choose to receive hospice coverage and stop Medicaid covered services. You may switch back to Medicaid-covered medical care later if appropriate.
- Private insurance. Most private insurance covers hospice care. Check with your carrier to understand your benefits.
- Other financial support. Most hospice organizations and many hospitals have programs to pay for hospice care for individuals who are uninsured.
The terms hospice care and palliative care can be confusing, but they refer to two different types of care.
Both hospice and palliative care are for people with diagnoses of serious illnesses. However, you can use palliative care throughout treatment of a condition, not just at the end of life.
Palliative care can start the moment you get a diagnosis. Palliative care can provide support to you and your family and can help you make decisions about the care you receive.
The primary difference between palliative and hospice care is that hospice care is only available at the end of your life. A doctor needs to certify you have 6 months or fewer to live. You can receive palliative care at any time as long as you have a diagnosis of a serious and chronic condition.
Palliative care can help you manage your pain and other symptoms, but you can still receive treatments for your condition during palliative care.
Hospice is designed to make the last 6 months of your life as comfortable as possible. It provides relief from pain and symptoms along with support for you and your family.
Hospice is often provided at home, although long-term inpatient hospice care is also available.
Most insurances will pay for hospice care. If you don’t have insurance and have a limited income, you might be able to receive free hospice care through an assistance program.