home icon

Find Out More About Hospice Care

Deciding end-of-life care can be emotional for everyone

By Administration on Aging | May 22, 2012

Hospice programs are available to help terminally ill individuals live their remaining days with dignity.

These programs can assist the family (or other designated caregiver) in making the patient as comfortable as possible, and assistance is available around the clock, seven days a week.

Hospice is primarily a concept of care, not a specific place of care. Hospice care usually is provided in the patient’s home. It also can be made available at a special hospice residence. Hospice is a combination of services designed to address not only the physical needs of patients, but also the psychosocial needs of patients and their loved ones.

Hospice combines pain control, symptom management and emotional and spiritual support. Seniors and their families participate fully in the health care provided. The hospice team develops a care plan to address each patient’s individual needs.

The hospice care team usually includes:          

  • The terminally ill patient and his or her family caregiver(s)
  • Doctor
  • Nurses
  • Home health aides
  • Clergy or other spiritual counselors (e.g., minister, priest, rabbi)
  • Social workers
  • Volunteers (if needed, and trained to perform specific tasks)
  • Occupational, physical, and/or speech therapists (if needed)

When is hospice care appropriate?

As with many end-of-life decisions, the choice to enroll in a hospice care program is a deeply personal thing. It depends almost as much on the patient’s philosophy of living and spiritual beliefs as it does on his or her physical condition and the concerns of family members.

How can I pay for hospice care?

Medicare, private health insurance, and Medicaid (in 43 states) cover hospice care for patients who meet eligibility criteria. Private insurance and veterans’ benefits also may cover hospice care under certain conditions. In addition, some hospice programs offer health care services on a sliding fee scale basis for patients with limited income and resources.

Where can I learn more about hospice care?

Caring Connections, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), is a national consumer and community engagement initiative to improve care at the end of life. Another resource is the Hospice Foundation of America.

The Hospice Association of America provides information about hospice programs and how terminally ill patients and their families can find hospice services in their area.

Hospice Net is one more website where you can get information about how to find a hospice that is right for you.

Other family counseling and support services

Seniors and family caregivers facing end-of-life decisions often must deal with very difficult issues of grief and loss—both before and after their loved one dies.

In addition, they may have practical concerns about their legal rights and how to pay the bills now that an important member of the household is gone.

To help families prepare for a loved one’s death (and to support them afterwards), the following organizations offer resources that address everything from family counseling to financial planning:

Americans for Better Care of the Dying was founded in 1997 to help ensure that every terminally ill patient can count of good end-of-life care. It publishes several books on how to deal with mortality (death) and what health care alternatives (including hospice care) are available for seniors.

Family Caregiver Alliance supports and assists caregivers of brain-impaired adults through education, research, services and advocacy. They have facts sheets available on a variety of topics including end-of-life issues.