older woman using a walker, in hospice care, being aided by her nurse.

Seven Things to Know About Hospice

This article was originally published on LungCancer.net by Alison Petok, MSW, LCSW, MPH.

“Hospice” can be a scary word for patients and families, but in reality, it is a wonderful service that offers so much in a time of need. One reason hospice can be scary is that people do not truly understand what it is. Here are a few important things you should know about hospice:

1. Hospice helps you focus on your quality of life

Hospice is a service in your home or another setting that provides pain and symptom management along with psychosocial and spiritual support so that you are able to have your best day possible with a life-limiting illness. By supporting you in all of these ways and keeping you comfortable, hospice care allows you to focus on your quality of life.

2. Hospice supports the whole family

Hospice is not just for the patient enrolled in services. In fact, hospice supports the entire family. Hospice agencies are able to provide respite to tired caregivers as well as emotional support through social workers, clergy, and volunteers. A hospice doctor and nurse will be on call 24 hours a day to give you and your family support whenever you need it.

3. You can continue seeing your doctor

Enrolling in hospice services does not prevent you from continuing to visit with the doctor with whom you have formed a relationship. Your doctor can speak directly to the hospice agency or you can go check in with your doctor as you are able.

4. Your pharmacy comes to you

One of the great benefits of hospice is that it brings the pharmacy to you. This means no more running out, potentially to multiple pharmacies, to get medicine. Hospice can adjust your prescription drugs as needed in real-time. This reduces another burden on you and your family. Hospice agencies will also quickly deliver durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair or hospital bed.

5. There is no fixed timeframe

Once enrolled in hospice, a patient is approved for two 90-day periods. If they need to be recertified after 6 months to continue services, that is completely fine. I have known patients who have been enrolled with a hospice provider for over a year. Alternatively, if a patient changes their mind and decides that they would like to pursue treatment or stop hospice services for any reason, it is also ok to do so.

6. Hospice provides benefits and support after death

Hospice is able to provide ongoing support to family and friends after the death of a patient. Hospices offer one-on-one support as well as bereavement groups, among other resources.

7. Hospice is a benefit you are entitled to

Hospice services are a benefit you have a right to under Medicare. Once you enroll in hospice services, the Medicare hospice benefit should cover everything you need.

If you have any questions about hospice, now is the time to ask your care team. Having these discussions with your loved ones can reduce stress at a later time if you are able to make your wishes known now. The goal of hospice is to provide compassionate and high-quality care at the end of life, something every person is entitled to.

For more information about hospice, check out the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

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