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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does hospice do?
A: Hospice is a system of care for patients with a terminal illness who have a life expectancy of six months or less and who decide not to seek (or to discontinue) treatment to cure the illness. The goal of hospice care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible, and to support the patient and family, emotionally and spiritually, during the final months of life. Hospice care does not provide curative treatment for the terminal condition, but offers palliative care, which gives relief from pain and other symptoms. This care is often provided in the patient's private residence, but may also be provided in a hospital, assisted living facility, nursing home, or specialized in-patient hospice facility.

Q: Does hospice provide 24-hour care?
A: One of the strengths of the hospice model is that patient care is individualized. A plan of care developed for each patient identifies what types of care and how much care the patient needs. Patients receiving hospice care in the home generally do not receive 24-hour care from the hospice professional team, because family members and/or friends play a significant role in caring for the individual. However, patients who need in-patient care to gain control over their symptoms may receive 24-hour care.

Q: Who pays for hospice care?
A: Medicare, Medical Assistance, and most private health insurance plans have a hospice benefit. Each plan's coverage may be different. It is important to check your plan carefully so that you will know what hospice services are covered, and what expenses must be paid out-of-pocket.

Q: At what point should a patient enroll in hospice?
A: A patient should consider enrollment in hospice when he or she has a diagnosis of a terminal illness and the doctor has stated that the individual has no more than six months to live. Hospice may be appropriate for a patient in these circumstances if he or she has decided not to seek (or to discontinue) treatment to cure the illness.

Q: If my loved one has decided not to have chemotherapy for their end-stage cancer and the doctor says they only have a few months to live, how could hospice help them?
A: Hospice can help by providing care that will make them as comfortable as possible in their final months. Hospice can offer a range of services to your loved one and to the family, including assistance with personal care, social work services, support from a trained volunteer, spiritual counseling and respite care.

Q: Will hospice make my loved one die faster?
A: Hospice care will not make your loved one die faster. Hospice care provides compassionate support to allow your relative to live out his or her remaining days in comfort and dignity.

Q: Can you get hospice care at home?
A: Yes. According to the Hospice Association of America, 90 percent of hospice care is provided in the home. Most patients prefer to remain in their homes. The medical, social and emotional support provided by the hospice staff can make that possible for most patients.

Q: What would happen if I enroll my loved one in hospice but they live longer than six months? Will they be discharged?
A: No. Hospice patients are certified by the doctor for periods of care. Once a period of care elapses, the doctor can recertify the individual for further hospice care if he or she is still eligible. For example, under Medicare, a patient can be certified for two 90-day periods, followed by an unlimited number of 60-day periods. As long as the doctor certifies that the person continues to need hospice care, he or she will continue to receive it.

Q: Does hospice provide respite for the family?
A: Yes. Respite, which allows family caregivers to take a break from their caregiving responsibilities, is provided for home hospice patients. The care is usually provided in a nursing home or in-patient hospice facility. Generally the family may receive up to five days at a time of respite care.