What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care provides medical services, emotional support, and spiritual resources for people who are in the last stages of a serious illness. Some people think that starting hospice is a last resort, that it means they’re giving up on life, but hospice is simply a type of care that focuses on quality of life and comfort measures rather than curative treatment. A core principle of our hospice care is to respect the wishes of our patients and their family at all times. This includes respecting patients’ wishes about how and where they want to transition through life’s changes.

Our hospice care is provided in our patient’s residential home, assisted living facility, nursing home, or within our comfortable assisted living facilities, Olivia White Hospice Home and Forest House.

Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race, or illness. We provide care regardless of financial standing, although Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations.

Vista Hospice provides more than just hospice care. If you have a chronic illness and/ or if you live with pain, Palliative Care may be an option (See Palliative Care).

How does Hospice care work?
Typically, a family member serves as the primary caregiver and, when appropriate, helps make decisions for the terminally ill individual. Members of the hospice staff make regular visits to assess the patient and provide additional care or other services. Hospice staff is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The hospice team develops a care plan with the patient that meets the patient’s needs for pain management and symptom control. The team usually consists of:

  • The patient’s Primary Care Physician
  • Hospice Physician (or Medical Director)
  • Nurses
  • Home Health Aides
  • Social Workers
  • Clergy or other counselors
  • Trained Volunteers
  • Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapists, if needed.

What services are provided?
Among its major responsibilities, the interdisciplinary hospice team:

  • Manages the patient’s pain and symptoms
  • Assists the patient with the emotional and psycho-social and spiritual
    aspects of life’s transitions
  • Provides needed drugs, medical supplies, and equipment
  • Coaches the family on how to care for the patient
  • Delivers special services like speech and physical therapy when needed
  • Makes short-term inpatient care available when pain or symptoms become
    too difficult to manage at home, or the caregiver needs respite time
  • Provides bereavement care and counseling to surviving family and friends

Paying for Hospice
Hospice is paid through the Medicare Hospice Benefit, Medicaid Hospice Benefit, and most private insurers. If you are a veteran, you have special benefits through the Veteran’s Administration. If a person does not have coverage through Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurance company, we will work with patients and their family to gain access to hospice services.

Medicare Hospice Benefit
The Medicare Hospice Benefit is covered under Medicare Part A (hospital insurance). Medicare beneficiaries who choose hospice care receive a full scope of medical and support services for their life-limiting illness. Hospice care also supports the family and loved ones of the patient through a variety of services.

Sometimes a patient’s health improves or their illness goes into remission. If that happens, your doctor may feel that you no longer need hospice care. Individuals always have the right to stop receiving hospice care, for any reason. If you stop your hospice care, you will receive the type of Medicare coverage that you had before electing hospice. If you are eligible, you can return to hospice care at any time.

Who is Eligible for Medicare Hospice Benefits?
You are eligible for Medicare hospice benefits when you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are eligible for Medicare Part A (hospital Insurance), and
    your doctor and the hospice Medical Director certify that you have a life-limiting illness and believe you to have a life expectancy of six months or less should the disease progress at its normal course
  • You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of routine Medicare covered benefits for your illness*, and
  • You receive care from a Medicare-approved hospice program