Hospice Care: How Does It Work?

Friendly nurse cares for an elderly woman in a nursing home.

Understanding End of Life Medical Care

Hospice care is an important part of the medical industry, but the goals of this area of medicine are different than traditional medical practices. Hospice care is an area of medicine devoted to providing comfort to patients at an advanced stage of illness. The focus is not on curing the disease, but rather on managing the side effects and providing a comfortable end-of-life scenario. Patients who are in hospice care are expected to die because of their illness.

Why is Hospice Important?

Everyone deserves a pain-free death, but hospice is not usually pain free. For loved ones of terminal patients it can be heartbreaking and traumatic to accept that hospice is the next step because it often is the last step. Yet, many find peace in accepting that their loved one will die in a familiar place with familiar faces surrounding them.

Regardless of whether the battle with disease was long or short, you and your loved ones will be tired and afraid when a doctor recommends hospice. The patient and his or her immediate caretakers will have medical, spiritual and physical needs to be met. Hospice care can help provide those needs.

Who Benefits from Hospice Care?

A patient and his/her family may consider hospice if the patient is expected to live less than six months. However, the hospice care will be given as long as the patient and medical team deem the illness to be terminal.

The patient benefits from pain-free medical treatments in the comfort of his or her own home. Families find comfort in receiving professional assistance to treat the medical needs of their loves ones. With the help of the hospice medical team, the patient will typically enjoy a greater quality of life and be able to bond and forge new memories with loved ones.

Where Does Hospice Care Happen?

Many will argue that hospice care works best at home with a family member as a primary caretaker, but the medical care can be administered at a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility or medical building dedicated to hospice care.

How Much Does End-Of-Life Medical Care Cost?

Your primary doctor will likely be able to recommend a program, or you can use the Find a Provider tool developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

The cost of end-of-life medical care will vary greatly depending on the services needed, length of services, location, number of staff and insurance. The numbers below are provided by Debt.org:

  • $4,380 a month for routine home care
  • $25,650 a month for continuous care

In 2010, $13 billion of Medicare dollars were spent on hospice care, with an average cost of approximately $10,700 per patient.

Knowing When It is Time

When facing the loss of a family member to a terminal disease, you have likely worked with several doctors, nurses and specialists whom you have grown to trust. These caregivers will let you know when it is time to consider hospice. However, don’t ever feel like you can’t get a second opinion. Nothing is more important than proper medical care for your loved ones, especially in their last days.

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