Family Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my loved one ready for hospice?

If you are asking the question, you must be seeing things that are concerning you. Being diagnosed with a life-limiting illness often includes increased confusion, repeated hospitalizations with minimal change, an individual saying, “I do not want to go back to the hospital anymore,” unexplained weight loss, and/or poor hygiene. All of these symptoms may be part of a larger problem and need to be addressed by a physician. Together, a plan of care for your loved one will need to be created that may include hospice care.

What are the criteria to qualify for hospice?

Generally speaking, the hospice benefit is intended primarily for use by patients whose prognosis is terminal, with six months or less of life expectancy. If you are in doubt, it is best to consult a hospice professional for an assessment.

Who pays for hospice care?

The hospice benefit is part of Medicare coverage and is available for extended periods of time based on the assessment of the patient. When a patient chooses hospice care under Medicare, they switch from standard Medicare coverage to the Medicare Hospice Benefit. The rule is you cannot be on both standard Medicare and Medicare Hospice Benefit, but you can revoke the hospice benefit and go back to the standard coverage at any time. The benefit is divided into two 90-day certification periods and subsequent unlimited 60-day periods. The hospice medical director, along with the hospice interdisciplinary team, meet every 14 days to ensure qualification for the service and that symptoms/needs are being met.

What is covered on hospice care?

All medications, equipment, and supplies related to the palliative (comfort) care of the patient are covered. Hospice care keeps the patient comfortable and symptoms under control. It does not actively treat the diagnosis.

How can hospice help?

Hospice care was created to provide comfort and support to the patient and family; to allow the patent to live the conclusion of their life with the least amount of symptoms possible. Hospice care allows the patient to remain in control of his or her life and make informed choices about the care they want to receive. This level of homecare strives to meet the physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs of the patient, caregiver and/or family. Hospice allows the patient to prepare for a natural, peaceful death with dignity.

How do I get my loved one started on hospice care?

Anyone can call a hospice agency of their choice and ask for a hospice evaluation. The agency will call your primary care physician to ask for permission to evaluate your loved one. After the evaluation occurs, you will be notified of what service would best fit your loved one’s needs. Together, the patient, the family and the physician will determine if you would like the hospice agency to pursue caring for your loved one.

What if we change our mind?

If at any time you decide you want to want to go to the hospital or seek active treatment, you may revoke (or sign out of) the Medicare hospice benefit, and there is no penalty to you. You may also re-enter the program again at later time if you meet the Medicare criteria and seek palliative care.

Where can I receive hospice care?

Hospice care may take place in a number of different settings, including one’s home, an inpatient hospice home or in a nursing home.

  • Hospice in the Home: A skilled team of registered nurses, nurses’ aides, medical social workers, chaplains, and volunteers, in partnership with the attending physician, provides physical, emotional, and spiritual care and support in the familiar surroundings of the patient’s home. Medical equipment and medications are provided and delivered to the home throughout the care.
  • Hospice Inpatient Care: Allegheny Health Network’s Healthcare @ Home program has taken great pride in providing a comfortable, home-like environment in our inpatient units. The role of hospice inpatient care is to provide a focused approach to the management of pain and other symptoms that may be difficult to manage in a patient’s home.
  • Hospice in the Nursing Home: Supplementing the care offered by the nursing home staff, the hospice team provides expertise for pain and symptom management, additional aid care and emotional and spiritual support for nursing home residents facing a life-limiting illness.


For more information, please contact us at 1-800-381-8080.

Other resources

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)
1731 King Street, Suite 100
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phone: (703) 837-1500
Fax: (703) 837-1233

National Association of Homecare and Hospice (NAHC)
228 Seventh Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 547-7424
Fax: (202) 547-3540

Mesothelioma Center

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center