How do I know if the time has come to consider hospice?

  • If you or your loved one has been told that you have a disease or illness and there are no further curative treatment options, hospice becomes an option. With hospice, the focus shifts from curing the illness to providing comfort and quality of life.
  • Hospice also becomes an option ff you or your loved one has decided that the treatment options available to cure an illness are not worth the side effects, pain, and suffering.
  • Patients and families receive a greater benefit from hospice care when the decision is made to elect hospice care sooner rather than later. Many people delay since it marks a turning point in care. This means that many patients receive hospice care for only a short period of time. Some patients and caregivers fear that choosing hospice means that nothing more can be done. But this is not the case. In fact, hospice patients often receive a lot of services to help improve their quality of life.

If hospice is an option, who makes the choice?

As a patient or family caregiver, the decision to seek hospice care is yours to make.  It may be easier to make this choice after talking with other family members, your primary care physician, or other healthcare providers/caregivers.  Hospice is a choice – no one can force you to accept hospice care.

Your physician may be the first person to suggest hospice care.  However, it is perfectly acceptable for you to mention this care option to your physician if it has not been presented as an alternative to curative or aggressive care. Some physicians do not like talking about hospice; some see it as a sign of failure and others are hesitant because they are poorly informed.  Many physicians do not understand the role of hospice and the benefits it provides to patients and their loved ones.  If you believe hospice is a viable option for you, but your physician does not agree, you have the right to seek a second opinion.

Who pays for hospice care?

  • Medicare Part A coverage includes a Medicare Hospice Benefit that pays for direct patient services, professional fees, medical equipment, medications, and other services provided by the hospice team. Hospice patients will continue to receive Medicare benefits to treat health problems other than the terminal illness.
  • Most private health insurance plans have a hospice benefit. This can be verified by contacting your private insurance company.
  • The Texas Medicaid program pays for hospice services. There may be a small co-pay for some hospice services provided through Medicaid – this can be determined prior to electing hospice care.

How do I start the process?

  • A hospice staff member will schedule a private meeting with you and your family to discuss the role of hospice and answer any questions you may have regarding this care option.
  • If you are interested in pursuing hospice care, your primary care provider will be asked to provide the hospice team with a physician’s order for evaluation and admission along with current medical history information to help the hospice team determine whether you are a candidate for hospice care.
  • If your physician provides an order and health history and you are found to be an eligible candidate for hospice care, you will be asked to sign consents for care.
  • If you are currently receiving services from a home care agency or any other healthcare team, the hospice team will coordinate with your current providers to transition your care to the hospice team.
  • You will be assigned a hospice nurse who will schedule an admission visit. This visit will occur in your home setting.  During this time, the hospice nurse will perform a thorough examination, review current medications and treatments, discuss care options, and help you develop a personalized treatment plan.
  • Any necessary medical equipment, medications and supplies will be ordered and delivered to your home. Your hospice team may also include a therapist, a chaplain, a home health aide, and possibly a volunteer. Your team members will begin to make regularly scheduled visits to your home to ensure all of your care needs are met.
  • You will be provided a contact number that will give you access to a team member 24 hours a day. You will utilize this number for all emergent and non-emergent needs.  This number will replace 911 – This can be a difficult change if you are used to calling for an ambulance when illness occurs or new symptoms arise.  Your hospice care team will now be providing symptom management in your home setting, eliminating the need for recurrent hospitalizations.

What if I decide to stop hospice care?

Hospice care is an elected benefit. This means that you or your family member can opt out of the hospice program for any reason, at any time.  If you decide to revoke your hospice coverage, you will need to notify your hospice team of your intent and a team member will work with you to complete the required forms to end your hospice coverage.  You can start working with a hospice program at any time in the future.