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What is Hospice?
Hospice care brings together medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support for terminal patients and their families. Eighty percent of hospice care is provided in the patient's home, however there are also inpatient hospice facilities. The mission of hospice staff and volunteers is to address the symptoms of a terminal illness with the intent of promoting comfort and dignity. They are experts at pain management.
Hospice will manage your loved one's pain, help you understand what he or she is going through and help you and other family members cope with your emotions. Many of us are at a loss as to what we should do before and at the time of death. Hospice professionals help you get through a very difficult time and are there even after your loved one's death.
What's the cost and is it covered?
Medicare and Medicaid provide a hospice benefit that covers almost all of the costs of caring for a dying person during his or her last six months of life. To qualify for the Medicare hospice benefit, a person must have:
The Medicare hospice benefit covers skilled nursing services, physician visits, skilled therapy (i.e. physical, speech or occupational), medical social services, nutrition counseling and bereavement counseling, most of the cost of prescription drugs for symptom control and pain relief. Short-term inpatient respite care to relieve family members from caregiving is also covered.
Medicare does not cover 24-hour round-the-clock hospice care in the home. However, in a medical crisis, continuous nursing and short-term inpatient hospice care is available. Nor does Medicare cover the room and board charges for inpatient hospice care.
How to find a hospice provider
The Pennsylvania Homecare Association website includes a "Find a Provider" feature where you can search for an agency by location or by the services you need.
Hospices are licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. You can also search for an agency near you on their website.
What to ask
Here's a list of questions you should ask when looking for a hospice provider:
If you are looking for an inpatient hospice, visit with their staff and tour their facility. The journey you are about to take will leave you with a lifetime of memories. Make sure you feel very comfortable and at peace with the hospice professionals who will guide you along this path of letting go.
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