FAQs

10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Hospice Care

1. What is hospice?
2. How does hospice work?
3. How long can I get hospice care?
4. As a hospice patient, why would I stop getting hospice care?
5. Should I wait for my physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?
6. Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?
7. Must someone be with the patient at all times?
8. How difficult is caring for a dying loved one at home?
9. Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
10. If Medicare or any other health insurance does not cover the patient, will hospice still provide care?


1. What is hospice?

Hospice is a special way of caring for people who are terminally ill. Hospice care also helps the family of people who are terminally ill. This care includes physical care and counseling. A public agency or private company approved by Medicare can give hospice care. Hospice is for all age groups during their final stages of life, including children, adults, and the elderly. The goal of hospice is to care for you and your family if you are terminally, not to cure your illness.

2. How does hospice work?

Your doctor and the hospice will work with you and your family to set up a plan of care that meets your needs. The care that hospice gives you is meant to help you make the most of the last months of life by giving you comfort and relief from pain. The focus is on care, not cure. As a hospice patient, there is a team of people that will help take care of you. They include: your family, a doctor, a nurse, counselors, a social worker, home health aides, and trained volunteers.

3. How long can I get hospice care?

You can get hospice care as long as your doctor certifies that you are terminally ill and probably have less than six months to live. Even if you live longer than six months, you can get hospice care as long as your doctor recertifies that you are terminally ill. Hospice care is given in periods of care. As a hospice patient, you can get hospice care for two 90-day periods followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods. At the start of each period of care, your doctor must certify that you are terminally ill for you to continue getting hospice care. A period of care starts the day you begin to get hospice care. It ends when your 90 or 60-day period ends. If your doctor recertifies that you are terminally ill, your care continues through another period of care.

4. As a hospice patient, why would I stop getting hospice care?

Sometimes a terminally ill patient’s health improves or their illness goes into remission. If that happens, your doctor may feel that you no longer need hospice care and will not recertify you at that time. Also, as a hospice patient, you always have the right to stop getting hospice care, for any reason. If you stop your hospice care, you will receive the type of Medicare coverage that you had before electing hospice (like the Original Medicare Plan or a Medicare + Choice Plan). If you are eligible, you can go back to hospice care at any time.

5. Should I wait for my physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?

The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professionals, clergy, or friends.

6. Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?

Your hospice provider will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain it. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient and safe as possible.

7. Must someone be with the patient at all times?

In the early weeks of care, it is usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally encourages someone to be there continuously. While family and friends must be relied on to give most of the care, hospices do provide volunteers to assist with errands and to provide a break and time away for major caregivers.

8. How difficult is caring for a dying loved one at home?

It is never easy and sometimes can be quite hard. At the end of a long, progressive illness, nights especially can be very long, lonely, and scary. So, hospices have staff available around the clock to consult with the family and to make night visits as appropriate.

9. Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?

Hospices do nothing either to speed up or to slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.

10. If Medicare or any other health insurance does not cover the patient, will hospice still provide care?

The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any coverage they may not be aware of. Barring this, most hospices will provide care for those who cannot pay, using money raised from the community or from memorial or foundation gifts.

Related Information:

Patient Care