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Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 05/26/2022

Hospice Care: Improving the quality of life remaining

Hospice Care: Improving the quality of life remaining

A patient and family may turn to hospice care when the goals of patient care have switched from curing to comforting. Hospice involves a special system of supportive services, including pain and symptom management, social services, and emotional and spiritual support. Any individual of any age with a diagnosis of a terminal disease may turn to hospice.

How Do I Receive Hospice Care?

Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance generally require a prognosis of six months or less for services to be covered. 

In addition to traditional medical hospices, there is a non-medical hospice program in Montgomery County that offers support for patients with a year’s prognosis or less who may choose to continue their curative treatments.

Hospice is unique in that care and support are provided to the entire family, not just the patient. A team of skilled professionals and volunteers work to serve the special needs of everyone involved. 

Choice is at the center of the hospice approach — a person faced with a life-limiting illness is encouraged to remain in control of his or her life.

As care is usually provided in one’s home, many hospice patients live out their lives in the comfort of familiar daily routines, surrounded by their treasured possessions along with family and friends. 

However, hospice services may also be provided in long-term care facilities or in-patient hospice residential settings.

What Services are Provided?

Hospice team members focus primarily on managing the patient’s pain and symptoms with medication, medical supplies and equipment. Other services, such as speech and physical therapy, are available if necessary. 

If managing the symptoms within the home becomes impossible, hospice providers can offer short-term inpatient care.

While family members learn how to properly care for the patient, information and support is also available to help everyone deal with the emotional, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of dying. Surviving loved ones will receive bereavement care and counseling from the hospice professionals.

How Do I Pay for Hospice?

Most services are fully or partially covered by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers or prepaid health plans. The non-medical services available in Montgomery County are free and delivered by a staff of trained volunteers. For traditional hospice services, financial assistance is available.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization notes that, “Eighty percent of people who use hospice care are over the age of 65, and are thus entitled to the services offered by the Medicare Hospice Benefit. This benefit covers virtually all aspects of hospice care with little out-of-pocket expense.”

To receive the Medicare Hospice Benefit, patients must be eligible for Medicare Part A, have a terminal disease or condition with a less than six months prognosis, and sign a document certifying that they are choosing hospice care instead of routine Medicare benefits.

Patients may only receive covered benefits from a Medicare-approved hospice program. In addition to Medicare’s coverage, hospice services are also generally covered by Medicaid or private insurers.

Adapted from Caring Connection’s and the American Cancer Society’s websites. For more information, see www.caringinfo.org or the information on hospice care at www.cancer.org.

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