The Carter Center announced Feb. 18 that former President Jimmy Carter, 98, has entered into home hospice care.
“After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention,” according to the statement. “He has the full support of his family and his medical team.”
At 98, Carter is the oldest living president. In recent years he has multiple occurrences of cancer, including melanoma, liver and brain cancer.
So, what exactly is hospice care?
Think of hospice as a philosophy of compassionate care for a loved one at the end of life. Hospice also offers a needed break and counseling for the family, in particular for a family caregiver. It differs from palliative care, which provides medical care for people with serious illnesses and focuses on symptom and stress.
Though the word “hospice” might trigger the notion of giving up on life, the goal is to give a person the best possible quality of life — emotional, physical and spiritual comfort. And studies have shown that patients who chose hospice care lived almost a month longer than similar patients who did not choose hospice.
“Hospice is an interdisciplinary model of care. It’s holistic, person-centered and aligned with individual needs,” says Edo Banach, president and chief executive of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Alexandria, Virginia.
Hospice also offers a needed break and counseling for the family, in particular for a family caregiver.
Hospice on rise for
More than 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries used hospice care in 2018, the most recent data available, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. Fifty-five percent were women, and more than 3 in 5 were 75 or older.
• Younger than 65: 16.3%
• 65 to 74: 22.3%
• 75 to 84. 28%
• 85 or older: 33.4%
Medicare and Medicaid typically cover the full cost of hospice services, and private insurance policies generally follow the Medicare model, says Theresa Forster, vice president for hospice policy for the National Association for Home Care & Hospice in Washington, D.C. Medicare pays for about 85 percent of U.S. hospice care.
“Regarding Medicare or Medicaid, virtually anything that the patient needs for terminal illness which is determined to be appropriate is going to be free of charge,” Forster says. “Once you go into hospice under your plan of care, you will receive it.”
Who is a hospice candidate?
A doctor must certify that a patient meets both of these requirements:
1. A fatal medical condition for which the patient is not seeking curative treatment
2. An expected prognosis of six months or less
That may change soon.