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Hospice Care

What is Hospice Care ?

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Updated June 13, 2008

We often hear the term hospice care when it is related to someone with a serious illness or disease, yet many people do not completely understand what hospice actually entails.

Generally, hospice is care given to a patient who is in their final stages of life, with emphasis on caring for that person to make their remaining days as comfortable for them as possible. With hospice, there is no work on finding a cure to a person's illness, but rather comforting them in their final moments.

Who is Eligible for Hospice Care?

Hospice care is generally available to those who have been given six months or less to live. With this prognosis, the patient usually no longer responds to any treatment, so hospice helps to care for a person when medicine is no longer effective.

Benefits of Hospice Care

While the need for hospice can be difficult for a patient or their family members to accept, it is important to remember that hospice is there to help. It is the quality of the patient's life that matters most, so hospice care is dedicated to see that as much comfort as possible is given to a patient in the final stage of their illness.

A hospice benefits a patient and family in many ways. It provides education to family members on how better to care for their loved ones, and hospice also offers support for the family who faces eminent loss. Hospice understands the toll that caring for a patient 24 hours a day has on a family, and so hospice care can relieve family for a time for much needed rest. For the patient, hospice provides emotional and psychological therapies to them to help accept their illness and issues with dying. Hospice also provides for pain management and any medical prescriptions or supplies the patient might need.

How Hospice Respects the Wishes of the Patient

Many people with terminal illnesses are more comforted with they spend their final days at home. Hospice care understands this need for comfort and familiarity and offers their care to the patient in his or her own home. Hospice can also be obtained in a hospital or nursing home. No matter where hospice is given, the patient's family members are urged to remain as the primary caregiver. It is extremely beneficial for a patient's family to be around them and so family is always considered in hospice care. For patients without family, hospice care facilities are essential to insuring care and comfort to the patient during their illness.

Who Oversees the Care at Hospice Centers?

Hospice workers are always medical professionals such as doctors and nurses. Many times a patient's hospice team will also include psychologists and members of the clergy.

Who Pays the Cost of Hospice Care?

While anyone considering hospice care can understand the need for it, there is the issue of how to pay for it. Many times, the cost alone will work against a family who is considering hospice, but there are options available to help a family who is unable to acquire care on their own. One way is to check with your existing insurance company. Many insurance companies today do cover hospice care. The best thing to do is meet with your agent to discuss any and all options available.

Medicaid, a state funded insurance program for people who are financially needy, also offers hospice care, though the program varies from state to state. Again, contact your Medicaid case manager to find out what services are available to you.

Medicare also offers hospice care for those recipients covered under Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). Medicare does have some conditions that must be met, such as eligibility for Medicare Part A, that a patient is certified to be terminally ill by their physician, and the patient must sign a document stating that they choose to have hospice care rather than the standard Medicare benefits.

Should a patient not meet any of these conditions, it is a good idea to inquire at hospice care centers, for many of these facilities receive grants to cover their expenses. Every hospice with have on a staff a financial professional who can assist a patient and their family on what options are available to them. Usually, these grants help patients who do not have insurance, or has insurance with deductibles that are much too high.

For patients and family members of those who are ill, hospice can be an essential part of a patient's final stages of life. Hospice can help with financial burdens and well as the inevitable mental and emotional stresses that come into play when facing terminal illness. Hospice puts the patient first which not only helps the patient, but the family who is dealing with losing them.
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