Hospice focuses on improving the quality of life for people and their families faced with a life-limiting illness. The primary goals of hospice care are to provide comfort, relieve physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering and promote the dignity of terminally ill people.
Although typically provided in a person's home, hospice care can also be provided in freestanding hospice centers, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients of any age, religion, race or illness. Hospice care is covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs and other managed-care organizations.
Hospice agencies provide the following types of services:
- Hospice agency staff members work with the family or nursing home staff to provide patient care. Goals of care are established with the patient and family and a care plan developed to help meet these goals.
- The hospice team provides the patient with medical care to relieve pain and other symptoms arising from a life-limiting illness.
- Medications are ordered by the primary physician or hospice doctor but are usually picked up by family members at a designated pharmacy.
- Counseling is available to patients to help them cope with their illness, address depression, grief, and anxiety, as well as spiritual issues, such as loss of meaning and fear of death.
- Counseling services to help with caregiver stress, role changes, depression, anxiety, family conflict, grief and spiritual concerns.
- Education to help family provide hands-on care to patients, proper usage of medications, knowledge about disease progression, signs and symptoms of dying, normal grief response and coping with stress, etc.
- Religious care is available either directly by the hospice chaplain or through community resources.
- Assistance with cremation/burial arrangements and with funeral/memorial services.
The Department of Health licenses hospice agencies to assure care is provided within health and safety standards established by statute and rule. Hospice services may also include the provision of home health and home care services. The department enforces the standards by periodically conducting unannounced on-site surveys of these agencies.
Medicare may pay for services provided by hospice agencies who voluntarily seek and are approved for certification by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS contracts with the department to evaluate compliance with the federal hospice regulations by periodically conducting unannounced on-site surveys of these agencies.