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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hospice care may take place in a number of different settings, including one’s home, an inpatient hospice home or in a nursing home.
For more information, please contact us at 1-800-381-8080.
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)
1731 King Street, Suite 100
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phone: (703) 837-1500
Fax: (703) 837-1233
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