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What You Need to Know About Hospice Care

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  2. Navigating the Aging Journey
  3. What You Need to Know About Hospice Care


If you are a caregiver, there is a chance you will eventually have to arrange hospice care for your loved one. “Hospice” may be a familiar term, but for folks who have never been involved directly in this type of care, there is a lot to learn.

Hospice care is for people who are nearing the end of their lives—specifically, those with six months or less to live. (If the patient lives past six months, he or she can remain in hospice if the doctor certifies that the patient’s condition is still life limiting.)

Unlike medical care, the focus of hospice care isn’t to cure the underlying disease. Instead, it’s to maximize the quality of life in the time remaining for the patient, making him or her as comfortable as possible. Controlling pain through medication is a typically a big part of hospice.

Hospice care is usually provided at home, with one person being designated as the primary caregiver. If you are the primary caregiver, you will provide most of the physical care for the patient. You will need to ask yourself if you are up for the demands of hospice care, both physically and emotionally. In addition, you will need to consider your work situation. Will you be able to leave your job, take a leave of absence or cut back on hours, if necessary? Some hospice programs will not serve your loved one unless he or she has a full-time caregiver.

To begin care, a member of the hospice team will make a home visit to determine your loved one’s needs and desires, and you will work with the team to come up with a plan. You will also be the main point of communication with the hospice team and will arrange additional caregivers as needed.

Sometimes, the patient’s symptoms cannot be managed at home, and he or she may need to receive hospice care in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility or dedicated hospice center. This care may be only temporary to address and control symptoms until the patient can return home.

No matter what the setting, hospice care is designed to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A hospice program providing your loved one with care at home will have an on-call nurse who will answer phone calls day or night, make home visits or send out a team member as necessary between scheduled visits.

Doctors and nurses provide hospice care, but often social workers, counselors, chaplains, dietitians, physical therapists, speech therapists and trained volunteers get involved too. Home health aides can help with tasks such as shopping, bathing and dressing. The team can provide help not just to the patient, but the patient’s family as well.

Most hospitals follow Medicare requirements to provide hospice care. In addition to some of the services described above (care visits, medication), Medicare can also pay for medical equipment like wheelchairs and walkers, medical supplies like bandages and catheters, grief counseling, and short-term respite care in a hospital or nursing facility, which gives the primary caregiver a break from the demands of hospice.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also pays for hospice care. Medicaid coverage of hospice is optional and varies by state. Private insurance typically pays for hospice care, but make sure you check with your loved one’s plan to determine who is eligible and what services are paid for. If the patient doesn’t have insurance, some hospice groups offer services at no cost or a reduced rate through grants, donations or other sources.

To find a hospice program, start by asking doctors, nurses, social workers and friends for ideas. You can also contact your local or state office on aging. Another resource is the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which can be reached at 800-658-8898.

To find out how Home Instead of Montgomery County/DC can help you with hospice care, visit or call (301) 588-9710.





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By Jill Renkey for Home Instead Senior Care

Since 1998, Home Instead Senior Care has provided companionship, meal preparation, laundry/light housekeeping, incidental transportation, medication reminders, and personal hygiene assistance to seniors in Montgomery County, MD, and Northwest Washington, DC. For more information, please call (301) 588-9710;

This blog is a place for readers to learn strategies for coping with aging loved ones and to obtain insight into the caregiving process. The content of our articles should not be regarded as medical, psychological, or other expert advice, and any reliance on the information provided therein is at your own risk. TFM Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Home Instead Senior Care (the “Company”) makes no guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information presented and may not be held liable for its use or application. The information contained in this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. The Company reserves the right to delete and/or modify the content of this blog at any time.


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