How to Die Well: Benefits of Hospice Care

If you have a family member that is in the process of heading into hospice care, you may have questions. For example, if you are the adult child of a parent soon to be in hospice care, you likely have questions and concerns about what to expect. Through this article, we provide you with an analysis of the benefits associated with hospice care. We also provide you additional information you will need as you assist your parent or other loved in preparing to enter in a hospice program.

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is intended for people who are approaching the end of their lives. Hospice services are provided by a team of healthcare and other professionals with the primary goal of maximizing comfort for a terminally ill person. This is accomplished by:

  • Reducing pain
  • Addressing other physical needs
  • Addressing psychological needs
  • Addressing social needs
  • Addressing spiritual needs

Hospice care is also designed to support and assist family members of people nearing the end of their lives. Families are provided:

  • Counseling
  • Respite care
  • Information and education
  • Practical support

Keep in mind that hospice care differs significantly from medical care. The focus of medical care is to cure an underlying disease. The focus of hospice care is to support the highest quality of life possible for a person during whatever time remains in his or her life. 

Primary Benefits of Hospice Care

There are a number of significant benefits associated with hospice care. These include:

  • Comfort care
  • Pain management
  • Fewer invasive procedures
  • Less time spent in hospitals
  • Care available around the clock
  • Professionals trained in end of life care
  • More control over decision making
  • Less expensive than curative care
  • Medical supplies and equipment delivered to home
  • Medical and non-medical assistance provided

In the interests of transparency, there are some negative aspects of hospice care. Having said that, for most people in most situations, hospice cons are nearly always offset by the pros. Primary negative aspects of hospice care are:

  • Lose eligibility for experimental treatments
  • Diagnostic tests are discouraged
  • Hospitalization is discouraged

Who Is on a Hospice Care Team?

A hospice care team is formulated to meet the specific needs of an individual entering into this type of program. Thus, there can be some variations from one hospice care team to another. Nonetheless, there are essentially team members that generally are the same from one situation to the next:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Home health aides
  • Spiritual counselors
  • Social workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Volunteers 
  • Other professionals:
    • Speech therapists
    • Physical therapists 
    • Occupational therapists 
  • Bereavement counselors

Location of Hospice Care

Hospice care can be obtained in a number of different locations, depending on a person’s needs and desires. Examples of where a person can obtain hospice care include:

  • In a person’s home with the assistance of in-home care and assistance
  • In a specialized hospice facility
  • In a nursing home

Who Pays for Hospice Care?

Hospice care can be paid for in a number of different ways. These include:

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Private insurance

Keep in mind that many hospice programs charge fees that are based on a person’s ability to pay. The being said even if an individual lacks a payment source like those set out a moment ago, that person is still likely to be able to find a suitable hospice program that fits within his or her budget.

Due Diligence in Selecting a Hospice Care Program

If your parent or another loved one is in need of hospice care, you need to undertake thorough and comprehensive due diligence on behalf of your mother and father when it comes to selecting a hospice care program for your mother or father. The Mayo Clinic has developed an array of questions you need to obtain answers to each time you visit or consult with a specific hospice program:

  • Is the hospice program Medicare-certified? Is the program reviewed and licensed by the state or certified in some other way? Is the hospice program accredited by The Joint Commission?
  • Who makes up the hospice care team? How are team members screened and then trained?
  • Is the hospice medical director board certified in hospice and palliative care medicine?
  • Is the hospice program not-for-profit or for profit?
  • Does the hospice program have a dedicated pharmacist to help adjust medications?
  • Is residential hospice available?
  • What services are offered to a person who is terminally ill? How are pain and other symptoms managed?
  • How are hospice care services provided after hours?
  • How long does it take to get accepted into the hospice care program?
  • What services are offered to the family?
  • What respite services are available for the caregiver or caregivers?
  • What bereavement services are available?
  • Are volunteer services available?
  • If circumstances change, can services be provided in different settings?
  • Does the hospice have contracts with local nursing homes?
  • Are hospice costs covered by insurance or other sources, such as Medicare?

When to Talk About Hospice Care

If you are the adult child of an older adult in their Golden Years, you should be as proactive as possible in talking to your mother or father as proactively as possible. Ideally, you and your parent (or parents) discuss hospice care at a point in time before this type of assistance is needed. As with so many things in life, it is best to undertake at least some planning in regard to accessing hospice care should such a need ever arise.