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5 Frequently Asked Questions About Hospice Care

December 20, 2022

Skilled Nursing Healthy Aging
Doctor or nurse caregiver showing a brochure to senior man at home or nursing home

What is hospice care, and how can it benefit you or your loved one?

“The goal of hospice care is to focus on the care, comfort, and quality of life of a person with a serious illness that is approaching the end of life,” says Charles Lockhart, M.D., a hospice and palliative care physician with Riverside Health System.

Unlike medical treatment, the purpose of hospice care isn't to cure an underlying illness. Hospice care supports the highest quality of life possible for the remaining time that a person has. Hospice is for a terminally ill person who is expected to have six months or less to live. However, a person can stay in hospice as long as their doctor agrees that their condition is life-limiting.

Many people who receive hospice care have cancer. However, hospice is also for people who have: 

  • Heart disease
  • Dementia
  • Kidney failure
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Other life-limiting diseases

Hospice care includes emotional and spiritual support for both the patient and their loved ones. These frequently asked questions (FAQs) can help you better understand if hospice is right for you or your family member. 

FAQ #1: Is It Time for Hospice Care?

It can be difficult to know if your loved one is ready for hospice care. The following questions can help you determine if it’s time to consider hospice. Has your loved one:

  • Been to a hospital or emergency room several times recently?
  • Made frequent phone calls to their doctors?
  • Started taking medication to lessen their pain?
  • Spent most of the day in a chair or their bed?
  • Fallen several times over the past six months?
  • Needed help with bathing, dressing, eating, getting out of bed, or walking?
  • Felt weaker or more tired?
  • Experienced severe weight loss or shortness of breath, even while resting?
  • Learned that they have a limited life expectancy?

If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, talk to your loved one’s doctor about hospice care.

FAQ #2: Who Provides Hospice Care?

Many different professionals provide hospice care. These healthcare providers include physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors, dietitians, home health aides, clergy, physical therapists, and trained volunteers. 

The types of therapists and healthcare professionals that will care for your loved one depend on your family member’s specific needs.

FAQ #3: Does Insurance Cover Hospice?

Hospice is often covered by Medicare. What’s more, private insurance companies may also cover a portion of the fees. Talk with a case manager or social worker to find out if insurance or Medicare will cover your loved one’s hospice expenses. 

FAQ #4: Where is Hospice Care Provided?

Hospice care is provided in a variety of settings, including:

  • The person’s private home
  • Nursing home 
  • Assisted living facility
  • Hospital

Some people want to receive hospice care at home as they feel more comfortable in their own environment, and family can visit whenever they want. Deciding where to receive hospice care is a personal decision, but it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor, family members, caregiver, or close friends about the level of care you need and whether or not it can be provided at home.  

FAQ #5: How Can I Start the Hospice Conversation with a Loved One?

If you think your loved one would benefit from hospice, these tips can help you have a productive discussion:

  1. Choose a time when your loved one feels well enough to have a conversation.
  2. Look for an opportunity to broach the topic, such as when families gather for holidays or special events.
  3. Ask your loved one how they feel about how they are managing their condition currently. Give your family member time to express any feelings or concerns about moving to hospice care.
  4. Include your loved one in the decision-making process. Your family member might have special requests or preferences that you aren’t aware of.
  5. Encourage your family member to talk with their doctor or health care provider. If your loved one has a trusting relationship with a certain doctor or health care professional, this person might be able to start the conversation about the benefits of hospice.

“Many caregivers struggle with guilt and sadness as part of their loved one’s transition to hospice. Riverside’s hospice team can provide information and address specific concerns that you or your loved one has about hospice care,” says Dr. Lockhart.

If you are considering hospice care for yourself or a loved one, you can learn more by visiting Riverside Health’s Hospice and Palliative online resources.

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