By Published On: November 15th, 2021

Hospice Care – Everything You Need to Know

For many families, hospice care provides a safe, supportive, and dignified way to take care of someone as they approach the end of their life. It is a specific type of compassionate care from medically trained, certified professionals. This article will walk you through everything you need to know about hospice care, including the services provided, the professionals administering the care, the cost, and the benefits for families.

Article Topics:

What is Hospice Care?
In-Home Care
Continuous Care
Inpatient Care
Respite Care
What Services Does Hospice Care Provide?
How Much Does Hospice Care Cost?
How Are Hospice Professionals Trained and Certified?
What Are the Benefits?
Should We Plan Ahead?

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is for patients with a terminal illness. Patients choose hospice when treatment has stopped working, or they no longer want to move forward with treatment. It can provide physical, emotional, and spiritual relief for the patient and the family toward the end of a patient’s battle with disease. Hospice is available to patients who have an incurable illness, and for whom their doctor does not believe they will live longer than six months. The goal is not to cure the illness, but to make the patient as comfortable as possible while the illness runs its course. There are four types of hospice care:

In-Home Care

In-home care allows for the patient to stay in the comfort of their own home. Hospice professionals provide routine care for the patient, with the focus being on their quality of life and comfort. Your loved one will receive a full range of support from hospice professionals. This includes doctors, nurses, spiritual advisors, social workers, and trained volunteers. Care includes:

  • Symptom and pain management
  • Nutritional and therapeutic services
  • Assistance with daily personal care, and
  • Emotional and spiritual counseling for both the patient and the family.

elderly couple talking with hospice inpatient care nurse

Continuous Care

Sometimes, a patient needs attention around the clock. Continuous care is available when a patient is having a medical crisis, or if they need more intensive management of their symptoms. Also referred to as crisis care, continuous care requires a nurse to be present for extended periods of time. This can provide relief to families and allow them to spend time with their loved one without the extra stress of care giving.

Inpatient Care

If, for whatever reason, a patient’s symptoms cannot be managed at home, inpatient care can be provided at a hospice facility. This is intended to be a short-term stay. The team at the facility will work to stabilize the patient and control severe pain so that they can safely return home for the remainder of their care. However, some patients may prefer to stay in their care even after being released. If that is the case, the family may make arrangements to keep the patient in the hospice facility.

Respite Care

Every once in a while, families need a break from providing at-home care for their loved ones. Hospice centers understand this, and can provide short-term stays for a loved one while the family members rest and recover. This will assure that the patient is getting the proper support while the family recharges.

If your loved one has opted out of treatment for their illness, it’s important for them to know that they can change their minds. Let’s say, for instance, that your elderly grandfather opted out of dialysis to treat his failing kidneys. Later, he learned that the family was expecting a great-grandchild. He has the right to change his mind and leave hospice care to receive treatment so that he can meet his great-grandchild. In that case, he must sign a form with the date he prefers to stop  care. Of course, he always has the option to return to hospice, if he chooses, down the road.

Hospice care focuses on the needs and wants of the patient. It’s meant to provide comfort, dignified care, and support to the family, as well as the patient. Care professionals are experts in providing the best support for your loved one as they approach the end of their life.

hands protecting group of paper doll people

What Services Does Hospice Care Provide?

Hospice care provides the patient with a team of professionals who are qualified to take care of the patient’s and family’s needs. These are the services that are typically provided.

  • A team of doctors: Oftentimes, a patient’s regular physician will work in tandem with hospice medical doctors to decide on the best care.
  • Nurses: A case manager nurse will be assigned to the patient. This nurse will visit a few days per week to make sure the patient is receiving the appropriate care. Patients also have access to a 24-hour on-call nurse.
  • Social services: A social worker is also assigned to the family to help with their social/emotional needs.
  • Home-health aides: These personal caregivers visit the patient a few times per week. They assist with bathing, dressing, grooming, dressing, eating, and moving from one spot to another.
  • Counseling: Mental health support is usually available to families and patients facing the end of life process. Additionally, hospice programs provide spiritual support and dietary services. Bereavement counseling is available to the family for up to a year after death.
  • Medication: Medication should be covered for hospice patients. However, the only medications that are provided and covered are the ones designed to ease pain and manage symptoms. Treatment to help the patient recover or get better is no longer provided in hospice care.
  • Medical equipment: Most hospice patients require medical equipment to assist with their care. Supplies like oxygen tanks, hospital beds, wheelchairs, bandages, latex gloves, and monitors will be provided.
  • Therapists: Physical therapy is available as needed, in addition to speech therapy and occupational therapy.
  • Other services: Each hospice program has a list of services and benefits they provide to patients and families. Contact your hospice care provider for a complete list of the services they provide.

hospice care worker in blue scrubs holding red heart object in hand

How Much Does Hospice Care Cost?

Considering the professional staff and services provided, it’s a common misconception that hospice care would be unaffordable for most. But depending on your health insurance, you may not have to spend a penny. Insurance plans vary, so contact your provider to see what is covered.

Many elderly patients who need hospice care are covered by Medicare. This does not cover long-term care, such as an indefinite stay in a nursing home. However, the Medicare hospice benefit covers hospice services entirely. Medicare also covers services for conditions that are not related to a patient’s terminal illness. The only cost to the patient is the monthly premium, a small copay for medication, and the deductible, if there is one. Check with Medicare to find out more information.

How Are Hospice Professionals Trained and Certified?

The following is a breakdown of the training and certifications for hospice and palliative care professionals.

  • Doctors: Medical physicians are required to take a specialty exam, administered by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
  • Nurses: Certification is through the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC). Nursing assistants may receive hospice and palliative certification (CHPNA), as well as the registered nurse (CHPN), the pediatric nurse (CHPPN), and the advanced practice registered nurse (ACHPN).
  • Social workers: Social workers who meet specific requirements may receive palliative care certification through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). Social workers may be certified at a bachelor’s level (CHP-SW), or a master’s level (ACHP-SW). Experienced social workers may take a new certification exam through the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Network (SWHPN).
  • Counselors: Counselors may get certified through the Counseling in Death and Bereavement Certification in thanatology (CT) through the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC).
  • Chaplains: The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), and the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) offer palliative certification for chaplains through the The Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCI). Additionally, chaplains, pastors, and petrol psychotherapists may be trained and accredited through the the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.

healthcare worker hands holding elderly person hands on top of blanket

When searching for the appropriate hospice professionals, check for their credentials through the organizations listed above. It can offer families peace of mind to know that their hospice care providers are certified and properly trained.

What Are the Benefits?

Hospice offers a wide range of services to patients and families. Family members will not be alone in making sure their loved one is comfortable and safe as they approach the end of life. On-call care is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All hospice care equipment and medication may be covered, depending on your insurance. This can reduce the out-of-pocket expense for families. Choosing hospice care can reduce unwanted hospital stays and invasive procedures.

The hospice program is designed with the patient’s desires in mind. Patients who use hospice will have their pain levels controlled, and their comfort considered as a top priority. The goal is to make their transition as pleasant and comfortable as possible. The benefits don’t only apply to the patient. The family can benefit from hospice services as well, such as bereavement counseling up to a year after the death of their loved one.

elderly mother and younger daughter embracing on couch at home

Should We Plan Ahead?

The more you prepare for end of life care, the greater your chances of receiving the support you prefer. Many people make arrangements for their care before they are too sick to make major decisions. This lessens the burden on the family. It also ensures that the wishes of the patient are understood and honored.

Many people make arrangements for end of life care when they are first diagnosed with a serious illness. Others plan even earlier, and purchase an insurance plan that covers end of life care and assisted living care. Check with your insurance agent for more information.

Hospice care provides patients and their families with relief and comfort during the final months of life. It is important for families to know that compassionate support is available for end of life care. Hospice care gives the patient a chance to face their terminal illness with dignity and as much comfort as possible. It is important to consider end-of-life care options early, so that the patient and family can get the most out of what the hospice program has to offer.

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