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FAQs and Myths About Hospice Care

By HERWriter
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What is the main difference between hospice care and palliative care?

“Palliative care is the combination of active and compassionate therapies intended to comfort and support individuals and families who are living with a life-threatening illness. The goal is to manage symptoms, enhance knowledge, facilitate caregiver participation, and coordinate physical, psychosocial and spiritual support services. Palliative care is available to anyone experiencing difficulty managing pain and symptoms usually related to a life-threatening illness. The consultations are conducted by a registered nurse and may be provided to patients who are still undergoing active treatment for their illness and will continue to be provided so long as the patient requires pain or symptom management.” (Home Hospice and Palliative Care of Rhode Island)

Hospice care “is a specialized program that offers help, comfort and support for people with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Hospice is about helping patients live full and meaningful lives by aiding them and their families with medical, emotional and spiritual care.” (Home Hospice & Palliative Care of Rhode Island)

“Hospice care is provided to patients who have a life-threatening illness and are expected to live six months or less ... is provided by a team – nurses, hospice aides, social workers, physicians, chaplains, grief counselors ... and continues until the patient dies.” (Home Hospice & Palliative Care of Rhode Island)

It’s too early to think about hospice care.

As with most things, you may not need hospice care for you or your loved one, right now, but it pays to learn, plan and think ahead to avoid having to make a very important decision under very stressful conditions. Discuss end-of-life wishes with your family now so that in the event that they need to make decisions on your behalf, they can.

“Only about 24 percent of Americans put into writing how they want to be cared for at the end-of-life ... 19 percent have not thought about end-of-life care at all, while 16 percent have thought about it, but not told anyone their wishes.” (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization)

How can I be sure my loved one is receiving quality hospice care?

Observe how the hospice staff works and interacts with the patient and loved ones and how staff honor the patient’s wishes. Find out how many patients a particular hospice staff member is caring for at one time. Does hospice staff regularly discuss and evaluate pain control and symptom management with the patient and their families? How do staff members respond to requests for help and how quickly do they respond to after-hour calls? Find out what the hospice does to ensure quality care including whether or not the hospice follows the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Standards of Practice for Hospice Programs. Do the members of your hospice team have credentials for the care they will be providing and what kind of accreditation or certification does the hospice program itself have? (adapted from National Hospice Foundation)

Where does hospice care take place?

“Hospice care occurs wherever a person calls home. Hospice is not a ‘place’; patients receive hospice care at home, and home is broadly defined. Home may be a person’s residence, a nursing home or an assisted living facility, or a residential hospice.” (National Hospice Foundation)

Hospice care is only for “old people”.

“Hospice is open to people of all ages, including children, and to people who have different medical conditions.” (Hospice Foundation of America)

Does Medicare/Medicaid cover hospice costs

“The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the range of medical and supportive services ... that are deemed ‘reasonable and necessary’ by Medicare for managing a person’s illness.” (Hospice Foundation of America)


Hospice Foundation of America http://www.hospicefoundation.org/uploads/hic_fs_hospice.pdf

National Hospice Foundation http://www.hnmd.org/publications/How_to_Select_a_Hospice_Program.pdf

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
http://www.nhpco.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=4642); Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island (http://www.hhcri.org/tabid/185/default.aspx

Reviewed on August 25, 2011
by Maryann Gromisch
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

Hospice care has been done for people or patients whom cannot take care of themselves anymore. And as a medical practitioner giving this care is very important for up to the last breath of the person you are giving dignity and equally to them.
McDonough Hospice

September 9, 2011 - 12:39am
HERWriter (reply to sheenwhite)

Thank you, Sheenwhite, for your dedicated service.

September 9, 2011 - 7:17am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.