Hospice Care: 5 questions answered

Friday, February 16, 2024

You've likely heard about hospice and know it may be an option for someone who is terminally ill. But how much do you know beyond that? Here are answers to some common questions about hospice.

Q:What exactly is hospice care?

A: It focuses on caring for—not curing—someone who is believed to have six months or less to live. It brings together a team of people with special skills to comfort and support people and their families near the end of life. That team may include doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual advisors and trained volunteers.

Q:Where does it take place?

A: In most cases, hospice care happens in the home of the terminally ill person or in the home of a loved one.

But hospice care can also take place in a hospice facility, hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility.

Q: Is any medical care provided?

A: Yes. While the disease itself isn't treated, its symptoms are. The hospice team works together to ease pain and other symptoms so that someone who has a life-limiting illness can live as comfortably—and fully—as possible. A member of the team visits the patient regularly, and someone is always available by phone, if needed.

Q:What other services are provided?

A: Quite a few. For example, the hospice team is there to:

• Provide emotional and spiritual support for the dying person and family alike.

• Coach the family on how to care for their loved one.

• Arrange for short-term inpatient care if pain or symptoms are too difficult to manage at home or caregivers need respite care.

Q:Who pays for hospice care?

A: It's covered by Medicare, most private insurance plans and Medicaid in most states.

Sources: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; National Institute on Aging

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