VNAA - Visiting Nurse Associations of America

What is Hospice?

A hospice is a facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill. It is typically the end-of-life care provided by health professionals and volunteers for patients with life-threatening illness.

The goal is to make the patient comfortable, pain-free, and provide emotional support in the patient's home. Typical hospice patients are only expected to live six months or less so hospices focus on comfort, not curing, and in most cases care is provided in the patient's home. Hospice care can take place in other environments also, such as at a hospice center, nursing home, assisted living facility, in a hospital or in a skilled nursing facility.

Many consider hospice care the defining model of compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury, when curative treatments bring extreme side effects or are not effective. Hospice involves a team approach to providing comfort, expert medical attention, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to the patients' needs and wishes. At the center of the hospice care philosophy is the belief that each of us has the right to be pain-free and to live and die with dignity.

Most private insurance plans cover hospice care, as do Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare-certified hospices are required to provide nursing, pharmacy, and doctor services around the clock.

Hospice Care Settings

Hospice care is defined not only by the services and care provided, but also by the setting in which these services are delivered. Hospice care may be provided in the patient's home or in a special facility. Care begins when the patient is admitted to the program, which generally means that a hospice team member visits the home to learn about their situation and needs. Return visits are set-up so that their needs can be re-evaluated regularly. In fact, more than 90% of the hospice services provided in this country are based in patients' homes.

Before making a decision about the type of program that is best for the patient and their family, it is important to know all your options and what each requires.

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