November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month – Let’s talk hospice

Hospice care focuses on the care, comfort, and quality of life of a person with a serious illness who is approaching the end of life. People begin talking about hospice after they have pursued treatments and interventions. Hospice often comes up in discussion as a “final option,” but it is so much more.

At some point, a cure may no longer be possible. Hospice provides a layer of support for the patient and family after medical interventions are no longer an option. Hospice provides comprehensive comfort care as well as support for the family. Hospice is provided for a person with a terminal illness whose doctor believes he or she has six months or less to live if the illness runs its natural course. It is important to understand that the person does not need to pass in the six months. Some patients live longer than their prognosis, and this is a known benefit of hospice.

It’s important for a patient to discuss hospice care options with their doctor early and before it is a necessity. Often, people do not learn about hospice until it is the last recommendation from their doctor. The full benefits of hospice are meant to be provided through the course of the disease and prepare the individual and their family for the end. Sometimes, people don’t begin hospice care soon enough to take full advantage of the help it offers. Starting hospice early may be able to provide months of meaningful care and quality time with loved ones.

November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month

Hospice and Palliative care services are often used interchangeably. However, they are distinctive services, and for many patients and families, they are services needed at different time and spaces in the continuum of care. Here are some frequent questions we hear about hospice and palliative care:

  1. Who can be treated? Palliative can treat patients who have a serious underlying condition and are pursuing curative interventions. Hospice is designed for individuals with a serious illness that doctors believe will result in the patient passing in 6 months or less. Patients are not pursuing curative treatments at this time.
  2. Will my symptoms be relieved? Yes, for both. Hospice and Palliative services are both focused on the quality of life. Symptoms, especially pain, are targeted in the intervention.
  3. Can I continue to receive treatments to cure my illness? Yes, for palliative. No, for hospice. Hospice is only supporting with symptom relief, not curative efforts.
  4. Will Medicare pay? Yes, for hospice. Medicare covers the hospice benefit. For palliative, Medicare may cover a portion of your costs, and you may have a co-payment depending on your level of coverage.
  5. Does private insurance pay? Every plan is different, and they may restrict number of days or visits that the member is eligible to access. There may be co-payments or deductibles included to access the benefit as well.
  6. How long will I be cared for? Palliative alone does not have restrictions on the length of service though some insurance plans may limit patient access. Hospice services may be provided as long as the criteria of a life limiting illness with under a 6 month prognosis is met.
  7. Where can I receive care? For both palliative and hospice care, services can be provided in the home, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and in hospitals.

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