What Is Hospice Care?

What it is, where to find it, what to expect and who will pay.

doctor holding hands with patient in bed

What is Hospice Care?
Hospice care is generally for those who have six months or less to live. Care at this stage focuses on relieving symptoms rather than curing. The goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible and to help prepare the patient and family for the patient's death.

Where Can I find Hospice Care?
Families can be referred to a hospice by a doctor or hospital, or they can find the nearest one on their own at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization web site or call National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization's Help Line at 800.568.8898.

What Can I Expect From Hospice Care?
Usually hospice personnel will come to your home to do an assessment and then provide the care in your home. It mainly consists of making the patient as comfortable as possible, and also includes conversations with the patient and the family to help them have meaningful and sustaining final interactions. Personnel include a team of social workers, therapists, clergy and volunteers, in addition to nurses and doctors.

Will I Be Able to Provide the Care My Loved One Needs At Home?
Hospice workers can train you to provide the care needed.

How Difficult Will the Final Six Months Be?
They can be increasingly difficult depending upon your loved one's illness. People handle the end stages of illness in different ways. It is usually necessary not to leave the patients alone as they become increasingly sick or weakened. Be aware that as their health deteriorates, they may experience changes in their mental status. Hospice can help you through this process, which can be just as difficult for the caregivers as it is for the person who is ill.

Who Pays?
Most insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid cover the costs of hospice care.

Will I Need Special Equipment?
The hospice representative will assess what equipment is needed and help you arrange to get it. Much of the cost is covered by insurance.

Does Hospice Care End When My Loved One Dies?
Most hospices sponsor bereavement groups for family and friends and many periodically call family of the deceased to see how they are doing.

Ronnie Friedland is an editor at Care.com. She has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.

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Comments (9)
Tamela L.
Nancy C. that is correct.. Service companies charge 15 to 18 dollars an hour and the caregivers get 8 dollars an hour on the average maybe 9 if you really talk to your boss. So there for like myself I prefer to work on my own at 10 or 12 dollars an hour depending on the client and the situation. But I am with a company now because its hard to find private pay jobs because all of these companies are already getting ahold of them. And they don't realize we as caregivers don't receive the money we make minimum wage from 7.50 to 8.00 an hour. I worked for myself for several years until my client died in 2010. And had to go with a company because I had to find a job ASAP. Just alittle info for people looking for caregivers that think we get paid all the money you pay to companies.
Posted: January 23, 2014 at 11:26 AM
Photo of Nancy C.
Nancy C.
I learned that many agencies charge outrageous amounts with the person providing the care only getting about 25% of the amount charged. I would consider interviewing on my own. You might need two or more caregivers sharing the time between them. 24/7 is very difficult for anyone, family or employee.
I understand how difficult and challenging full time care is and hope you are able to find competent and caring individuals to provide a safe and caring environment for your family.
Posted: January 17, 2014 at 12:54 AM
Candace
I have been caring for my grandmother for 7 years. She is 94 years old and has been living on her own up until 2 months ago when she was admitted into the hospital for dehydration (due to her prescriptions/water pills etc) she was stabilized in the hospital after 2 weeks and I continued her care in a skilled nursing facility. As grandma ALWAYS BOUNCED BACK after some time, this was different. Once I brought her home I realized that she could NOT live on her own. It required even much more care than I could provide. I placed her into a private home that is better equipped to care for her. Today I was suggested "hospice" for her. I'm hesitant because I always thought that was for the "terminally ill" well she is 94 and she completely has her mind, however her body is failing her. Congestive heart failure, kidneys failing, COPD, along with other issues. I keep thinking "she's going to get better" realistically she is not. I want the last stage of her life to be comfortable . Hospice? I welcome any suggestions/comments
Posted: December 05, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Debra
Can you please tell us what we need to do !! My mother has alzheimers and now has been diagnoised with Lung Cancer. She is in a nursing facility, should we bring in hospice or let them take care of her till the end?
Posted: November 23, 2013 at 3:31 AM
Rachel C.
My mom passed away 12-28-12, she was under hospice they made my life easier and made her comfortable...yes it's hard to hear that your loved can't go to the doctors or hospital it took me a few days to accept what they told me..anything I needed I had the next day or the same day..all her meds were taken care of....when the time came of her passing..they took care of everything....I love hospice.
Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:42 PM
Martha
My father joined hospice at the insistance of my sisters, POA, Rosemary Kelley and Anita Brady. He has renal failure but no distress. He is fully functional and not at the comfort only stage. He has had 24/7 care for years.

When he signed the papers, he unknowingly signed away all decision making to the POAs. He had to give up physical therapy and allow hospice and the POAs to decide when and if he can go to the doctors. Its now a struggle between sisters (POA and Non POA) to allow him to see the eye doctor to change his medicine. This not the only instance of struggle to see a doctor when treatment was required. Once in hospice, its self pay for these doctors.
Posted: February 05, 2012 at 4:23 PM
Jerri
My mother recently ran 103.6 fever and was on the gurney waiting for transport to the ER but they had to wait for the Hospice nurse to arrive. When he arrived, he diagnosed mom as having a urinary tract infection and convinced my sister who is POA to sign a refusal for paramedics to transport. She was then given antibiotics and put to bed and all is well, thank God. My problem is understanding why a doctor would recommend Hospice care to a patient who is perfectly healthy in all aspects other than Dementia. She is under 24/7, private home care. I am uncomfortable with the fact that Hospice doesn't want hospitals involved in their care of patients. My mother is NOT dying and hasn't been diagnosed as being 6 months or less from death, so why hospice? I think it is a wonderful organization for the dying, but she isn't at that stage yet. I'm very uncomfortable about someone telling my sister that 103.6 fever with a urinary tract infection, is normal. A nurse diagnosed my mother, not a doctor, and began treatment on something that could very well have been more serious. I also was told, by a hospice nurse, that if their patient dies in the hospital and not in a home, that they will not get their BONUS? This infuriates me! My son-in-law is also a Paramedic and deals with Hospice on a daily basis. His feelings are the same as mine, that they are a wonderful organization, BUT, seem to have more control than they need to have, when it comes to decisions like the one we recently experienced. We were told that she could be brought to the doctor for an examination but before that was done they had a "doctor" come in and examine her, left a report with no signature or contact number for questions. Does any of this sound normal to you? I want to be assured that this Hospice organization that is handling my mother is following procedure right. Thanks, Jerri
Posted: January 30, 2012 at 9:32 AM
Photo of Jill M.
Jill M.
What a challenging time for you and your family, Debra. It is always a great idea to ask questions like you re doing before making any big decisions -- especially if they will impact your well being. We have Senior Care Advisors here at Care.com who can discuss your situation and the options available to you. Feel free to call us at 1-855-722-2730 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.
Take care,
Jill
Posted: December 22, 2011 at 3:36 PM
Debra Blair
My father and mother are in hospice (both with terminal different kinds of cancer), however, one has has profound (!) dimentia... They both live in their home (and I live 5 minutes away)....I am there 3 to 4 times a day, even though we have finally hired 24/7 In Home Health Care...now all four shifts are AWAKE,since my mother's manic/frightening wanderings, falls, wanting to walk out the door etc...

Hospice aside, what is the best In-Home Health Care (we use to have 7 to 7 (12 hour home health care but now have reverted to LIVE-IN, meaning, someone awake and having to be aware (due to my mother) at all times.

This new care is going to cost us (projecting for a six month period for both aroud $600,000 a year....do you have any suggestions...

I could move in with them, however, I would be the first one to be taken to the hospital due to the stress and misery over the situation....I won't be able to survive it....any advise would be an absolute blessing...Thank you, Debra (the daughter)
Posted: December 20, 2011 at 10:20 PM
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