Q: Who is eligible for hospice benefits under Medicare?
A: Hospice benefits are available to Medicare beneficiaries who:
- Are certified by their doctor and the hospice medical director as terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less;
- Sign a statement choosing hospice care using the Medicare Hospice Benefit, rather than curative treatment and standard Medicare covered benefits for their terminal illness.*
- Are enrolled in a Medicare-approved hospice program
*Medicare will still pay for benefits for any health problems that are not related to your terminal illness.
Q: What services are covered under the Medicare
A: The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the following services as long as they relate to the terminal diagnosis and are outlined in the patient’s care plan:
- Physician services for the medical direction of the patient’s care, provided by either the patient’s personal physician or the medical director;
- Regular home care visits by licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses to monitor the patient’s condition and to provide appropriate care and comfort;
- Home health aides and homemaker services to address the patient’s personal needs such as dressing, bathing, light housekeeping;
- Chaplain services for the patient and/or family members as desired;
- Medical Social Work Services
- Bereavement counseling to help loved ones and patients with grief and loss;
- Medical equipment and supplies;
- Pharmaceuticals and drugs for symptom control and pain management;
- Volunteer support to assist patient and family members;
- Physical, speech, and occupational therapy
- Dietary counseling
Q: Is a patient’s Medicare coverage forfeited if hospice
care is chosen?
A: No. A patient retains full Medicare coverage for any health care needs not related to the terminal diagnosis, even if the patient elects hospice care. You may get this care from your own physician.
Q: What assistance does hospice provide patients?
A: Hospice patients are cared for by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers,
counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and volunteers and each
provide assistance based on his or her area of expertise. In addition, hospice
helps provide medications, supplies, equipment, hospital services, respite care and additional
helpers in the home, if and when needed.
Q: Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?
A: Hospices neither speed up or slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of child birth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.
Q: Does hospice provide any help to the family after
the patient dies?
A: Hospice provides continuing contact and support for family and friends for at least a year following the death of a loved one. Some hospices also sponsor bereavement groups and support for anyone in the community who experienced a death of a family member, friend, etc.
Q: Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery
be returned to regular treatment?
A: If the patient’s condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy. If a discharged patient should later need hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage.
Q: Is there any special equipment or changes I have
to make in my home before hospice care begins?
A: Your hospice provider will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain it. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the disease progresses. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient and safe as possible.
Q: Is the home the only place hospice care can be delivered?
A: No. Although most hospice services are delivered in a personal residence, some patients live in nursing homes or assisted living centers.
Q: What is hospice’s success rate in battling pain?
A: Very High. Using some combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients can attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them.