Questions and answers about hospice care
Who provides hospice care?
At the heart of hospice care is the interdisciplinary team. This team is made up of hospice professionals, including physicians, nurses, certified nursing aides, chaplains, social workers and trained volunteers. Together this team focuses on reducing the emotional and spiritual suffering of the patient and family, as well as meeting the clinical needs of the patient.
What services are included in hospice care?
Hospice is a philosophy of care services focused on the patient and family, provided by an interdisciplinary team of professionals:
- Physicians, including the patient’s physician and hospice physician, collaborate to manage pain and other symptoms of serious illness. This includes prescribing medications, writing the care plan and determining other methods of pain and symptom control.
- Nurses frequently meet with the patient and family to assess any additional support needs and are the experts at maintaining patient comfort.
- Certified nursing assistants and home health aides provide personal care and support, and help the patient and family with activities of daily living (as outlined at admission).
- Social workers coordinate community resources and help the patient and family with non-medical concerns. They can help family members mend damaged relationships, plan for the future and ease other emotional difficulties.
- Chaplains provide spiritual and emotional support, helping patients and families cope with the serious illness and address any questions or concerns about end of life.
- Bereavement coordinators are available to provide support for the patient and loved ones, helping deal with grief both before the passing and after. Bereavement services are available to those who would like them for up to thirteen months after passing.
- Trained volunteers are available to provide companionship and emotional support for patients and their families.
In addition, hospice care provides medications, medical equipment and supplies necessary to promote comfort at home or in other hospice settings, as determined by the physicians. Hospice staff is available by phone all day, every day, should a need or question arise.
Is hospice a place the patient goes?
Hospice is a philosophy of care, not necessarily a place of care. Most hospice providers go to the patient to provide clinical care and psych-social support for the patient and family. This might be the patient’s or a loved one’s home, but it could also be an assisted living facility or nursing home.
How does hospice care work with a patient’s current treatments?
In order to receive hospice care, a patient typically must choose to no longer pursue curative treatments. There are circumstances where a patient might be able to receive palliative therapies during hospice care, such as palliative radiation or similar therapies to help manage pain and symptoms.
To better understand your options with treatments and hospice care, talk to your doctor or hospice provider.
What are the benefits of hospice care?
Hospice care places a high value on quality of life for the patient and the family, helping them live a full life. It is a holistic approach to care that provides clinical, emotional and spiritual support that often results in greater satisfaction with care and the end of life experience. Learn more about the benefits hospice care provides here.
How does a patient get hospice care?
As an illness becomes more serious or terminal and patients’ focus changes from curative to quality of life, patients should consider asking their doctor about receiving hospice care. Keep in mind that a doctor’s referral order is required to receive hospice care.
What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?
Hospice care is specialized care focused on reducing suffering for the patient and the family during end of life, typically in the last year or six months of life. Our interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, nursing aides and trained volunteers provide care and support to patients and families when they need it most.
Palliative care is an additional layer of specialized medical care focused on reducing pain, symptoms and stress for patients with serious illnesses, even as they are continuing curative treatments. A large focus of palliative care is also on having goals of care conversations and completing advance directives, so care wishes are known and documented in case the serious illness should advance.
Palliative care consultations are a great way to understand your illness and available care options, so you can make sure you get all the care you want and none of the care you don’t want.
Does insurance pay for hospice care?
Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, typically cover hospice care and the services provided through it, including prescriptions and necessary medical equipment. An Optum care team member can help determine a patient’s coverage.
How does hospice care work with home health?
Home health is typically focused on patient rehabilitation and traditional medical management, with less expertise in end-of-life care. The goal of home health is usually to take a patient with high needs and reduce those needs as they recover from an illness or accident.
Hospice is focused on quality of life and comfort for the patient and family. A hospice care team — including physicians, nurses, trained volunteers, chaplains, social workers and nursing assistants — manages pain and symptoms, provides emotional and spiritual counseling and educates the patient and family on the disease prognosis and care options. As part of the Medicare benefit, hospice typically provides medical equipment, beds, medication and other similar medical supplies that will support the patient’s quality of life.
As a home health patient nears end of life, it can be benefitical for hospice care to replace the home health care service.
If you think you or a loved one might benefit from hospice care, ask your doctor, contact your local Optum Hospice Care provider or call 877-765-4445.
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With the unique needs of today's Veterans in mind, Optum Palliative and Hospice Care is proud to support specialized care for Veterans via the We Honor Veterans program.
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