Hospice Care: Q & A

One of FamilyCare America’s experts answers your questions about hospice care.

Our consulting hospice social worker who has worked with dying patients and their families in their homes and in hospital settings addresses several questions regarding hospice care:

Is hospice care just for cancer patients?

“Hospice care is not just for cancer patients. Hospice care is for patients with life-threatening illnesses who can no longer benefit from curative treatment and generally have life expectancies of six months or less as determined by a physician.”

How does someone qualify for hospice care?

“A person qualifies for hospice care when he/she has a life-threatening illness that cannot benefit from curative treatment. A physician will determine a life expectancy of six months or less.”

How much does hospice care cost? Are there any community resources to help pay for it?

“Many patients qualify for hospice care under the Medicare or Medicaid Hospice Benefit as well as private health insurance. At times, there may be co-pays and deductibles that patients pay to receive hospice care according to their healthcare programs. Most hospice programs rely heavily on donations from the community to maintain services to patients without healthcare. Each hospice program has its own polices about payment for services and you would need to discuss your situation with them. Historically, no patient is ever refused hospice services.”

I am a college student interested in volunteering. How do I learn more about hospice care facilities? What training do volunteers need?

“If you have an interest in becoming a hospice volunteer it would be best to contact the local hospice program in your area and learn about the services and requirements of that program. Hospice volunteers provide a wide variety of service to patients, families, and to the organization. Generally, there is an application and interview process followed by an organized training program. Volunteers are trained to be knowledgeable about the many aspects of hospice care offered to patients and families.”

I recently had a friend die from cancer while receiving hospice care at home. Until recently, I thought all hospice care was given in the person’s home. Now I’m the primary caregiver for my mother, and I want to know about hospice care outside the home.

“There are several types of facilities that are used for hospice care. Generally, most patients are cared for by family and die in their homes. Hospice care is provided in freestanding hospice facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. To learn about hospice facilities in your community, you can seek information from local healthcare professionals or contact the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) at their HelpLine number 1-800-658-8898 or visit their web site at http:/www/nhpco.org/database.htm.”

Who decides what amount of medical treatment is enough? Is it usually the doctors or the family who makes that decision?

“The patient will generally decide what treatment he/she wants based on the recommendation from the physician. Together with the physician and the hospice team a plan of care will be developed for the patient and family.”

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