Part 1 of a Series: What is Hospice?

There are many misconceptions about hospice, so today I am beginning a three-part series to explain hospice and help family members recognize when the time is right to call for this assistance.

First, let’s define hospice and debunk the big misconception that many people have. First and foremost, hospice is not a place. Hospice is actually a specialized type of medical care the focuses on comfort during the end of life.

Hospice care is usually provided at a location that the family chooses, whether it’s the family’s home, an assisted living facility where the patient already lives (like Country Home Assisted Living in Parker, Colorado) or a hospice company’s care center.

To qualify for hospice, a physician must determine that a person’s life expectancy is six months or less. In most cases, previously-provided medical treatments are no longer working and may actually be prolonging the suffering.

When put on hospice, individuals must stop all of the curative treatments that they had been receiving. The specialist doctors and surgeons would be out of the picture. The care moves to a team of professionals who are trained in comfort care, pain relief and psychosocial support.

That team could include physicians, registered nurses, hospice aides, social workers, religious representatives and others. They are there to make sure the needs of the patient — as well as the family, friends and caregivers – are met.

A care plan is created with input from the family and patient to determine the frequency of visits needed by the doctor, nurse and others on the hospice team. The emotional and spiritual aspects are also addressed with hospice providing everything from a priest to give Last Rites to a social worker who can help ease the anxiety of a family member.

Hospice also provides special equipment that may be needed, such as wheelchairs, hospital-type beds and oxygen concentrators.

Three important things to note are:

  • Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, most insurance plans, HMOs and managed care plans. There should be no cost to the family.
  • Patients don’t have to give up their regular physician when they are placed on hospice, but they do have the option of using a hospice physician who is available 24/7.
  • Hospice care can be stopped if the family chooses or if the patient gets better and no longer meets the 6-month prognosis.

When we have hospice come to Country Home Assisted Living in Parker, Colorado, we are very appreciative for the support they provide to both our medical staff and residents.  They help us focus on comfort for everyone concerned, including all of the residents who live in our Elbert County facility.

The dying process is different for everyone, but hospice workers are great at helping the individual and their families cope with the situation as it changes. I can’t say enough about the support they give our staff and residents as we all deal with a friend’s passing.


This series continues next month with a blog titled: When is it Time to Call Hospice?