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Frequently Asked Questions

When is the right time to ask about hospice?
How does hospice care begin?
Is hospice available after hours?
How does the hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?
Can I be cared for by hospice if I reside in a nursing facility or other type of long-term care facility?
Do state and federal reviewers inspect and evaluate hospices?
Who is eligible for hospice care?
Doesn’t accepting hospice care mean giving up?

What if my condition improves?
How does hospice manage pain and other symptoms?
Doesn’t pain control medications make people feel “doped up”?
What kind of emotional and spiritual support does hospice provide?

When is the right time to ask about hospice?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect from hospice services.  Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern.  This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed.  By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations.  Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
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How does hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by the patient’s doctor.  Often a hospice program representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family/primary caregiver.  Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral.  However, in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.
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Is hospice available after hours?
Hospice care is available ‘on-call’ after the administrative office has closed, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.  Most hospices have nurses available to respond to a call for help within minutes, if necessary.  Some hospice programs have chaplains and social workers on call as well.
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How does the hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?
Many patients may have pain and other serious symptoms as illness progresses.  Hospice staff receives special training to care for all types of physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress.  Because keeping the patient comfortable and pain-free is an important part of hospice care, many hospice programs have developed ways to measure how comfortable the patient is during the course of their stay in hospice.  Hospice staff works with the patient’s physician to make sure that medication, therapies, and procedures are designed to achieve the goals outlined in the patient’s care plan.  The care plan is reviewed frequently to make sure any changes and new goals are in the plan.
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Can I be cared for by hospice if I reside in a nursing facility or other type of long-term care facility?
Hospice services can be provided to a terminally ill person wherever they live.  This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility can receive specialized visits from hospice nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers, and volunteers, in addition to other care and services provided by the nursing facility.  The hospice and the nursing home will have a written agreement in place in order for the hospice to serve residents of the facility.
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Do state and federal reviewers inspect and evaluate hospices?
Yes.  There are state licensure requirements that must be met by hospice programs in order for them to deliver care.  In addition, hospices must comply with federal regulations in order to be approved for reimbursement under Medicare.  Hospices must periodically undergo inspection to be sure they are meeting regulatory standards in order to maintain their license to operate and the certification that permits Medicare reimbursement.
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Who is eligible for hospice care?
A physician must certify that a hospice patient has an illness and an estimated life expectancy of six months or less if the illness runs its usual course. The patient must agree to hospice care.

Generally most hospice providers accept everyone who meets those criteria, regardless of the patient’s financial situation or insurance coverage. The patient does not have to have family caregivers in the home in order to receive hospice services.
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Doesn’t accepting hospice care mean giving up?
Hospice involves acknowledging that most diseases in their advanced form cannot be cured. It does not mean giving up hope. The focus of hope shifts towards helping the patient achieve maximum physical comfort and peace of mind.
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What if my condition improves?
Occasionally, the quality of care provided by hospice leads to substantially improved health, and life expectancy exceeds six months. When this happens, the hospice provider will transfer care to a non-hospice care provider. Later, when patients become eligible for hospice, they can re-elect the hospice benefit. There is no penalty for getting better!
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How does hospice manage pain and other symptoms?
Hospice physicians and nurses are experts at pain and symptom control. They are continually developing new protocols for keeping patients comfortable and as alert and independent as possible. They know which medications to use simply and in combination to provide the best results for each patient.
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Doesn’t pain control medications make people feel “doped up”?
When morphine and other pain control medications are administered properly for medical reasons, patients find much-needed relief without getting “high” or craving drugs. The result is that hospice patients remain more alert and active because they are not exhausted by uncontrolled symptoms.
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What kind of emotional and spiritual support does hospice provide?
Hospice recognizes that people are more than a collection of symptoms. People nearing the end of their lives often face an enormous emotional and spiritual distress. They are dismayed as their physical abilities begin to fail. They don’t want to be a burden on their families. They worry how their loved ones will manage without them. Sometimes, they feel deep regret about things they have done or said – or things left undone and unsaid. Hospice professionals and volunteers are trained to be active listeners and to help patients and families work through some of these concerns so that they can find peace and emotional comfort in their final days.
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