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Posted: February 2, 2021, 10:22AM

The hospice benefit was created for people with limited life expectancy (6 months or less).  Hospice care is a benefit of Medicare, Medicaid, and many insurances, and most cover the benefits at 100%.    Hospice services are geared toward care receivers as well as caregivers and their families.

Hospice care includes hospice services, medications, medical supplies, and equipment related to the terminal illness.  A specially trained team offers support, guidance, and care for the patient.  The hospice family has access to someone 24 hours a day for those middle-of-the-night crises.

Hospice care offers a respite benefit too.  In-patient respite care can be provided in a Medicare-approved facility for up to 5 days.  You can get respite care more than once but only on an occasional basis.

Hospice can:

*  Help reduce hospitalizations

*  Help with pain management

*  Help with emotional and spiritual support

*  Increase life expectancy

Some hospice organizations offer palliative care which is specialized care focusing on pain management and other challenging symptoms of a serious illness.  The goal is to improve the quality of life of the patient and their family.  Palliative care may not require a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, and also allows for the continuation of curative treatment.  Palliative care patients do not necessarily receive hospice care.

If you have a life-limiting illness and are interested in your care options

* Talk to your health care professional.  Ask about your health, and ask about the prognosis.  What can you expect with the course of the disease?

* Talk to the hospice agency or agencies.  Ask questions.  You are not obligated to anything.  Find out about their services and their staff.  

* Don't delay in asking the questions. 

* Don't delay considering hospice care if you are experiencing a terminal illness.  The longer the patient can be involved in hospice care, the greater the benefit.

*  You can leave hospice if you choose and go back to traditional Medicare.  Talk to hospice about this.

Hospice is a supportive program for care receivers who are at end-of-life and their families.  Contact your local hospice organization for more information.

Source:  "Maximizing The Hospice Benefit", Amedisys Hospice, Amy Elliott, CDP, Amedisys Hospice St Clairsville OH, Used with permission; "Medicare Hospice Benefits", Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services,, rev November 2020]

Photo by Ann Koegler



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