Alert
Close

Multiemployer pension cuts and what you need to know about pension provisions in 2015. Learn more

Most Popular

Viewed

End of Life Care

Facts about Hospice

Is hospice care right for your loved one?

Article Highlights

  • Hospice care vs. palliative care
  • Find the right hospice care for your loved one
  • Use health insurance to pay for care

Myths and misconceptions about hospice can cause some to fear it. Find out what hospice is and how it can help you and your loved one during life's final journey.

See also: What to ask when considering a hospice program.

What is hospice care?
Hospice is a holistic approach to caring for people who are terminally ill. It involves a team of trained professionals, available 24 hours a day, who provide medical attention, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to an individual's needs and wishes. It's not a place — it's a concept of care that can be provided anywhere. Along with attending to the patient, hospice teams also provide compassion and support to grieving loved ones during the illness and beyond.

Introduced in England in the 1960s, the hospice philosophy upends old stigmas and treats death as a natural part of life. It does not prolong suffering, nor does it hasten the end. Hospice simply allows nature to take its course, with a sole focus on living life to its fullest in the final days.

How is hospice care different from palliative care?
Simply put, hospice care caters to those at the end of their life, while palliative care can be administered at any time during an illness. For more on palliative care and how it differs from hospice care, click here.

Who can receive hospice care?
Anyone, regardless of illness, culture, age, gender or financial status, can receive hospice care. A medical professional must give the individual a prognosis of six months or less to live and the individual must certify that he or she doesn't wish to pursue curative treatment.

How does it work?
The medical professional makes a referral to hospice. Then members of the hospice staff will conduct an assessment of the patient's overall needs as well as establish a care team. Along with the primary caregiver, the hospice team and the patient will outline an appropriate care plan.

From the moment a patient enters into hospice care, he or she may access a wide range of goods and services, such as:

  • Physician services.
  • Regular home visits by registered and licensed practical nurses.
  • Home health aides to assist in activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing.
  • Social work and counseling services.
  • Medical equipment, such as hospital beds and oxygen.
  • Medical supplies, such as bandages and catheters.
  • Pain management and symptom control.
  • Volunteer support to assist caregivers and family members.
  • Specialized services, such as nutrition counseling and physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Where do I find hospice care?
Hospice comes to the patient. Whether he or she is in a nursing home, hospice facility, hospital, or in his or her own home, hospice professionals will provide services wherever is most comfortable. This flexibility anchors the hospice mission and lets patients live their lives as they wish during this difficult time. Physicians and other medical professionals will know of hospice programs in the community.

Two other resources are the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Hospice Foundation of America. Both organizations offer databases of hospice programs throughout the United States.

How is hospice care paid for?
Medicare usually pays for hospice care. Medicaid pays in 43 states. Many other types of health plans, including health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs), cover the costs of hospice care. For patients who do not have insurance and do not qualify for Medicare/Medicaid, many hospice programs will offer free services.

Are all hospices alike?
Not quite, but they are similar. Each hospice program has its own characteristics and strengths that set it apart from others. All adhere to the core value of bringing comfort to the terminally ill. It's important to find out all you can about a hospice program you're considering. Some hospices are nonprofits and others are run like businesses. Click here for a checklist of questions to ask when reviewing programs.

Who regulates hospices?
Federal, state, and professional organizations evaluate hospice programs. Ongoing surveys ensure that they meet the standards developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. The state licenses and Medicare certifies all hospice services.

What makes hospice unique?
Hospice addresses all the needs of the dying patient, including physical, emotional and spiritual concerns. Moreover, it provides support to family members and friends through bereavement counseling during and following the illness.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Take Care
Blog

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Smiling man brushing his teeth

Members can get an instant quote from AARP® Dental Insurance program by Delta Dental.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx discount card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AARP membership discount Man trying on eyeglasses at optometrists smiling

Members save up to 60% on eye exams at LensCrafters.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.

Featured
Groups

Caregiving

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started caregiving? Discuss

Caregivers

Talk to other caregivers who are likely facing similar situations to yours. Join