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All persons regardless of age who have a life-threatening or terminal illness may receive hospice care. Most reimbursement sources require a prognosis of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course. Patients with both cancer and non-cancer illnesses are eligible to receive hospice care.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, working with the National Hospice Foundation, offers information on end-of-life planning and care, pain management, advance directives, caregiving, grief, financial planning and choosing a hospice facility. Refer to the National Hospice Directory to find a hospice provider in your area.
Caring Connections, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization provides free advance directive documents and instructions for each state that can be downloaded.
Hospice care centers offering compassionate care at the end of life that involves a team-oriented approach of expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's wishes. Emotional and spiritual support also is extended to the family and loved ones. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Basic services include visits to and services provided by your doctor, nursing care, medical equipment (such as wheelchairs or walkers), medical supplies (such as bandages and catheters), drugs for symptom control and pain relief, short-term inpatient and respite care , home health aide and homemaker services, physical and other therapies, social work services and grief support and counseling. The care that you receive for your terminal illness must be from a hospice.
Please Note: Hospice care services that are not included and paid for by Medicare are:
- Treatment to cure your terminal illness rather then comfort measures
- Care from more then one hospice.
- Care from another health care provider that the hospice is supposed to give you.
- The cost of room and board in a nursing facility or hospice residential facility.
The majority of hospice patients are cared for in their own homes or the homes of a loved one. "Home" may also be broadly construed to include services in a home-like setting operated by a hospice program. In addition services may be provided on a short-term basis in a hospital, hospice facility and nursing facility for respite care and pain or symptom management.
In addition to Hospice Care programs, Palliative Care has been added to reflect the broader range of care and services provided. Palliative care addresses not only physical pain and needs, but also emotional, social, and spiritual needs to achieve the best possible quality of life. Palliative care while augmenting the same values of hospice care also extends care to a broader population that might benefit from receiving care earlier in their illness or disease process.
Hospice care is covered under Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance), Medicaid, and most private insurances.
You are eligible for Medicare hospice benefits when you meet all of the following conditions:
- You are eligible for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance), and
- Your doctor and the hospice medical director certify that you are terminally ill and probably have less than six months to live, and
- You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of routine Medicare covered benefits for your terminal illness, and
- You receive care from a Medicare-approved hospice program.
Please Note: "Traditional" Medicare will still pay for covered benefits for any health problems that are not related to your terminal illness.