Hospice Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know when hospice is appropriate?

When a patient would like to move from a treatment plan focused on curing the disease to a plan focused on providing comfort and relief, he or she may choose hospice care. The patient, family and/or physician can initiate a hospice information and/or referral call or visit as soon as a terminal disease is diagnosed. At this point, the local hospice workers will meet with the patient's personal physician, the patient and the family to discuss available services and expectations and to develop a plan of care designed specifically for the patient and family needs.

Is hospice just a place to go to die when there is nothing else your doctor can do?

Hospice is the "something more" that can be done for the patient and the family when an illness cannot be cured. Choosing hospice is a movement into another mode of care-giving when a terminal illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments. It is not a place, but an approach to care. Hospice treats the person, not the disease, with a focus on the family and an emphasis on comfort and quality of life, not the number of days left. Care is primarily home based with hospice workers supporting the patient and family as they transition to a focus of comfort and quality of life. Referral into hospice is a movement into a mode of therapy that may be more appropriate for terminal care.

Is hospice care more expensive?

Any patient eligible for Medicare or Medicaid will pay few, if any, out of pocket expenses related to his or her hospice care. Most private insurers also cover some or most hospice related expenses. Studies have shown hospice care is less expensive than conventional care during the last six months of life. Less costly technology is used, and family, friends and volunteers provide 90 percent of the day-to-day patient care at home.

Can the patient keep his or her own doctor if entering a hospice program?

Hospice physicians work closely with your doctor of choice to determine a plan of care. Primary care physicians can continue to serve as the attending physician for hospice services and be involved in all aspects of care. Some physicians may choose to ask the hospice medical director to assist or assume the care of the patient if they are not familiar with different medications needed to aid in symptom management and pain control.

What happens if the patient condition improves or we change our minds about being in a hospice program?

Some patients do improve with hospice support, when the focus of care changes to quality of life instead of the next treatment or test. If the disease goes into remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice services. If at any time the patient chooses to do so, he or she is free to leave hospice services. If the patient should need hospice care later on, readmission to hospice services are not restricted in any way.

Does hospice do anything to make death happen sooner?

Hospice does not prolong life or hasten death. The goal of hospice care is to relieve symptoms and keep the patient comfortable. Hospice’s goal is to provide a calming presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.

Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?

Bereavement services are available to the family for 13 months after the death. Skilled counselors offer support for adults and children, as well as regular support groups, an annual grief support camp for kids and community education events.