Frequently Asked Hospice Questions

Who can receive hospice care?

Hospice is available for patients with a life-limiting illness who meet the Medicare qualifications for hospice services. If a patient meets the qualifications for hospice services, their physician certifies that a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease follows its normal projected course (without major medical intervention). 

Should we wait for the physician to recommend hospice?

It is important to have advanced care plan conversations with your physician and your family so that both can respect and follow your health care wishes. If your physician is not leading these conversations, it is appropriate for you to do so. Anyone can request or recommend hospice services, but a physician must write an order to initiate hospice care.  If you have questions about hospice services, call Springhill Home Health and Hospice. Our team can discuss the benefit with you at any time. Our team can contact to your physician to guide the process of obtaining an order for a hospice assessment. 

Can hospice care continue after six months?

If a patient meets the qualifications for hospice, the patient typically has a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease follows its normal projected course (without major medical intervention.) However, a study sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization found that patients who elect hospice care lived an average of one month longer than those who did not elect hospice care. If a patient still meets the qualifications for hospice services after six months, the hospice medical director and physician can re-certify that a patient is still terminally ill, and the patient can continue to receive the hospice benefit. 

How does hospice care improve quality of life for the patient and family?

Hospice helps patients manage their pain and symptoms and can offer support to improve the entire family unit’s physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Hospice can also decrease the financial burden of caring for a loved one at home by providing medications related to the hospice diagnosis, medical equipment, and supplies in addition to supplemental nursing, aide, social worker, chaplain and bereavement, and volunteer services. Hospice can also reduce the wait and expense of time spent at doctor appointments or the emergency room. 

How much does hospice care cost?

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance companies cover the cost of hospice services. Springhill Home Health and Hospice will also provide indigent care for patients who meet the qualifications for hospice under the Medicare hospice guidelines. The hospice benefit includes nursing visits, home health aide visits, chaplain and bereavement coordinator visits, social worker visits, volunteer services, 24/7/365 access to a nurse by telephone, medications related to the hospice diagnosis, medical supplies (such as diapers and nutritional supplements) and durable medical equipment (such as a hospital bed or wheelchair.)

Who is the primary caregiver once hospice is involved?

Adding hospice does not diminish the importance of the role of the patient or their family. The hospice team will establish care plan goals based on the needs and wishes of the patient and their family. The hospice benefit is designed to give the family the tools and support needed to manage their loved one’s needs from the comfort of home. Techniques to do so range from training the family on how to administer medication to home care safety training.

How often will my hospice team visit?

Each hospice recipient has an individualized care plan, which means that the services that are provided are unique to the needs of that individual. These needs, which are assessed upon admission and at each nursing visit afterwards, will determine how often the hospice team will visit. Visit considerations will be based on the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient as well as the preferences of patient and their family. Typically speaking, most patients will receive a nurse visit at least two times a week, an aide visit two to three times a week, a social worker and chaplain visit once a month, and volunteer and bereavement services as needed. A change in the needs of the patient or caregiver can warrant an increase in the number of visits necessary for the patient. Some patients only wish to receive a visit from the nurse once a week; other patients require daily nursing visits. Hospice is designed to increase services as the needs of the patient and family increase, which is why the nurse will assess the patient and family’s needs at each visit.

Can hospice provide care in settings other than the home?

Yes! Hospice care can be provided in any home setting. Examples include the patient’s home, a family member or friend’s home, an independent living facility, an assisted or specialty care assisted living facility, or a skilled nursing facility. Hospice can also provide care in a hospital setting when pain or symptoms cannot be managed in any other setting.

Does choosing hospice mean giving up?

Hospice does not mean giving up. Hospice is simply a different type of medical care, where the focus shifts from curative treatment to comfort treatment. Hospice neither hastens nor postpones death. A common misconception is that hospice discontinues all medications and does not treat infections, both of which are false. The hospice nurse, under the direction of the hospice medical director, will make suggestions or recommendations for additional or alternate medications that will alleviate pain or symptoms. Hospice focuses on quality of life, with an emphasis on providing physical, emotional, and spiritual services that will support the patient and family’s ability to living life to the fullest in the remaining months, weeks, or days. 

When is it time to switch from home health to hospice?

It is time to consider hospice when:

  • treatment is no longer effective
  • the side effects of treatment outweigh the benefits
  • frequent medication changes are necessary
  • the patient no longer wishes to return to the hospital
  • the patient or family needs extra assistance
  • additional visits and/or services are needed beyond the scope of home health

What if my health improves while I am on hospice care?

If a patient’s health improves during hospice care, the hospice team may discuss an alternate service, such as home health. If the patient’s health deteriorates or worsens at a later time, the physician can write an order for hospice to re-evaluate for hospice services. If the Medicare qualifications for hospice are met, the patient can elect to resume hospice care.