WHAT IS HOSPICE?
Hospice is a healthcare initiative that provides individualized comfort care to patients suffering from life-limiting conditions for which curative care is no longer effective. Sometimes referred to as end of life care, hospice is appropriate for conditions and chronic illnesses such as end-stage cancer, failure to thrive, Alzheimer’s, and many others. Unlike other medical specialties, hospice offers various kinds of support and care for the patient’s family, caregivers and encompasses a wide variety of services and disciplines including:
Hospice is a Medicare benefit. Medicare Part A, Medicaid, and most private insurers fully cover all of the costs associated with hospice care, including all services and goods listed above. The hospice care provider bills these insurers directly at a daily rate fixed by Medicare, sparing the patient and their family an unneeded burden at this already stressful time in their lives. For a complete menu of Medicare hospice benefits, see Services Provided Under the Medicare Hospice Benefit.
Since the goal of hospice care is to achieve the highest level of comfort for the patient, hospice care comes to the patient’s residence, whether it is a nursing home, assisted living facility, their own home or another.
Hospice is about living life as fully as possible. The greatest benefit can be received when hospice is started early.
Hospice is a Medicare benefit; most private insurance and Medicaid will also cover services. In addition, medical equipment and prescriptions related to the life-limiting condition are covered under these benefits, easing the financial burden on patients and their families.
Also know as an Advanced Directive or a Do Not Resuscitate order, a Living Will outlines the patient’s specific wishes with regard to so-called drastic or heroic measures to be undertaken on the patient’s behalf by medical personnel. Typically, a living will indicates what the patient wants done in the event that their heart stops during the course of a prolonged, degenerative illness: whether or not they desire CPR or defibrillation to be administered, a feeding tube to be inserted, breathing assistance, etc.
A Living Will is not necessary in order to receive hospice care, nor is it a barrier to care. It is very beneficial, however, to have one.