Hospices Offer Comfort at Life's End
It's a subject no one wants to think about, but every life must come to an end.
As medical progress helps people live longer, the end can linger, draining people
and their loved ones alike. So more and more people are turning to hospice care.
Hospice is not just for the elderly people or cancer patients. Children get hospice
care, as do people with degenerative diseases like Lou Gehrig disease, Parkinson disease, and
This holistic approach to the end of life treats pain and disease symptoms to make
the person as comfortable and functional as possible. Counseling helps people and
their families come to terms with the process.
Hospice and health plans
Medicaid and most health plans cover hospice programs. You can enter hospice care
when your healthcare provider determines that you have a life-threatening illness,
and says that you have 6 months or less to live. You, your family, and your healthcare
provider decide when hospice service should begin.
Although you enter hospice with less than 6 months to live, hospice services don't
automatically end at 6 months. Some people in hospice care live much longer. Insurance
may or may not continue to provide hospice coverage after 6 months, as long as your
healthcare provider again puts in writing that you are terminally ill.
Typically, a team of people treats you in hospice. The team includes your family and
a healthcare provider, a nurse, counselors, a social worker, pastoral care services,
home health aides, and trained volunteers. The goal is to control pain and symptoms
so that you are comfortable yet alert enough to make decisions. The team also helps
your family through the grieving process.
Some hospices have a facility where people receive care in their final days. But most
hospice programs bring healthcare providers, nurses, and other staff to your home.
Surveys show most Americans prefer it that way.
A hospice can give family caregivers a break through respite care. A trained caregiver
will step in to allow family members some time off.
Even with these benefits, many people still have the misunderstanding that you come
to hospice at the end of your life.
Instead of waiting until the very last moment to enter hospice, hospice staff recommend
that families discuss end-of-life issues well in advance, while you can still state
Hospice also offers many support services for you and your family. The relationship
that develops with the hospice staff allows the care receivers to work through anticipated
grieving as well as the planning of end-of-life issues. Patients say they appreciate
knowing that their family will not be left behind with no one to help them. Final
preparations are made in partnership with you, the patient. The final days can then
be spent on closure, knowing that everything has been done to help you through the
shift to dying.
To learn more
To learn about hospice care in your area, check into these resources:
Healthcare providers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals
Social workers, clergy, and other counselors
Friends or neighbors who have dealt with hospice care
Internet search engines
Your local yellow pages
Local or state offices on aging or senior centers