Hospice is a type of healthcare that is dedicated to patients who are terminally ill and have a limited life expectancy. This type of care is provided in a home-like setting (or in a patient’s home with a visiting nurse), focuses on maintaining the patient’s quality of life, while ensuring they remain as comfortable as possible, and provides palliative care as well as emotional support. Family members are welcomed to participate in the structure of care that best supports the needs and wishes of their loved ones, and grief support is always provided.
The role of palliative care is to:
- Treat the patient’s symptoms, including pain, depression, nausea, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, anxiety, and any other causes of distress or discomfort.
- Coordinate care that the patient might be receiving from various medical providers or community resources.
- Offer emotional support to the patient’s family, caregivers and loved ones, and help alleviate any feelings of distress or burden.
- Assist the patient and their family to clarify what matters most to them, and help convey those wishes and needs to their healthcare team.
Choosing the right hospice is a very personal decision, and it is recommended that a family/caregiver does proper research on various facilities so they can understand what environment best suits the needs for their loved one. Hospice providers are located both in-state and nationwide, and can either be for-profit or non-profit. A helpful website for hospice ratings and additional information can be found at Medicare.gov.
Hospice is a Medicare-covered benefit, and most insurance policies will cover the costs. Palliative care is provided in the individual’s home or at a facility, and is typically billed directly to the insurance company.
If the patient is a veteran and is currently enrolled in the VA program, then hospice care is part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package. Veterans are eligible for hospice only if they meet the clinical need that is required for such service. In this case, there would be no copay necessary, regardless if hospice care was provided by the VA or a separate organization with a VA contract.
Respite care provides temporary relief to unpaid caregivers (usually members of a patient’s family). Respite care is similar to hospice care and can take place at the individual’s home or a preferred health care facility, allowing caregivers some personal time off to rest and recuperate. Time restraints for this type of care are common, and can vary amongst providers. Respite care is typically covered by Medicare.