Unlike a hospital, which is an actual building where care is provided, "hospice" is more of a concept or a description of a type of care. Some communities do have hospices that care for patients in a designated facility, but the majority of hospice care is provided to patients and families in their own homes, whether that is a private residence or nursing home. Hospice care emphasizes physical comfort, pain relief, and symptom management, and addresses the patient's spiritual, psychological, social, and financial needs. Bereavement care for the family is also an integral part of hospice care.
At the current time, most patients suffering from chronic conditions cannot use hospice services. Under current restrictions, a patient must be expected to have less than six months to live before most insurance, including Medicare, will cover these services. Hospice provides many benefits for patients. People who might want hospice service and who believe they qualify should not assume that a doctor will automatically refer them to hospice at the right time. It is often up to patients and families to ask questions and take an active role in defining what kind of care fits them best.
Beneficiaries can find out about the specifics of the Medicare hospice benefit program by calling the Medicare hotline at 1-800-638-6833.
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|Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.|