Witnessing someone you love suffer as they succumb to illness or disease is emotionally devastating.  Although you may be aware of the prognosis, it can be difficult to envision what your loved one will experience during his or her final days.  The term hospice care usually surfaces in this situation, but not everyone knows what it means.  By understanding hospice care you can help your loved one decide whether it is right for their circumstances.

What is Hospice Care?

Generally, hospice care is a type of caregiving which can be provided to an individual who has been diagnosed with a condition that doctors believe gives them six months or less to live and can no longer be assisted by medical treatment.  The patient’s care in hospice is focused on compassion and providing comfort.  Its emphasis is on helping the patient to move towards the end of their life with dignity in the least stressful way possible surrounded by those that they love. 

When is it Time for Hospice?

As the focus of hospice is about compassion and managing pain rather than treating the underlying condition, this choice is usually made when the patient is ready to stop medical intervention.  Therefore, determining the right time to begin hospice care is up to the patient and their family as well as the patient’s treating physician.  In my experience, both families and physicians wait longer than necessary to start a discussion about hospice.   

Where does Hospice Care Take Place?

 Hospice care can be provided within a facility such as a hospice care home, nursing home, hospital, or in the patient’s house.  The best environment for hospice is where the patient feels the most comfortable. However, while most patients would prefer to be in their own home, when their condition has advanced, a facility may be better equipped to ensure their comfort.  

What does Hospice include?

Hospice care is usually provided through a multidisciplinary approach which includes physicians, social workers, personal attendants, and spiritual counselors.  This method of care also typically includes bereavement counseling and support to help the patient’s loved ones.  In Michigan, hospice provides bereavement support at no cost for a year after the loss of a loved one.

Who Pays for Hospice Care?

Medicare covers hospice care in home and facility settings.  While this coverage includes care provided within a nursing home, Medicare does not cover long-term care “room and board” of a resident at a nursing home.  Medicaid also covers hospice care as do certain private insurance plans.

When a loved one is terminally ill, hospice care can be a supportive and comforting choice for his or her final days. Our office has attorneys who understand and can help you contemplate all aspects of you or your loved one’s care options. Please contact us if we may be of assistance.

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