You never planned for this: the pervasive presence of a chronic illness, a loved one's sudden inability to perform even the simplest tasks. The scenario never seemed possible, but now it proves all too real, and you're struggling to provide the necessary support. Fortunately, you don't have to bear this burden alone. Hospice care is instead available to alleviate the pressures of each day and offer both medical and emotional aid.
Hospice care is a specialized medical option intended for those entering the final stages of a terminal illness. It connects patients to the treatments they need, while also stressing the importance of spiritual well-being. It emphasizes a strong quality of life for all, including those suffering from cancer, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, or chronic lower respiratory disease. Comfort is its cornerstone.
Why is this so important? Hospice care services both the patient and his family, relieving the stress of illness and allowing the focus to shift toward closure.
What Types of Hospice Care are There?
Every patient is unique, and every hospice treatment is also unique, with four levels of care for individual needs. These levels are:
Routine Home Care
Patients with controlled symptoms - those maintained by medication or physical therapy - are often offered routine home care. This program allows individuals to remain in their homes, with medical professionals (including registered nurses, health aide professionals, and counselors) scheduling regular visits. This promotes a stronger quality of life, maintaining a sense of normalcy during a difficult time.
Those with temporarily uncontrolled symptoms often enter inpatient care. This program recognizes the need for constant medical supervision, pairing individuals with a dedicated hospice staff. This ensures that all treatment protocols are carefully followed. It also encourages stabilization, with many patients later returning to their homes for different levels of care.
Hospice requires much from those involved - especially family members. These individuals are often the primary caregivers, and their days develop into a series of medical routines and emotional demands. Anxiety runs high. Respite care, therefore, becomes essential, taking patients from their homes and temporarily placing them in health facilities. This allows caregivers to recover from the stress, exhaustion, and physical strain.
Respite care is, typically, a five-day option. Extended stays are possible, should the hospice staff agree to them.
Continuous Nursing Care
Those with uncontrolled symptoms don't always enter inpatient facilities. Continuous nursing care is instead available as an alternative. This program allows individuals to remain at home, with hospice professionals providing 24-hour aid.
It should be noted that continuous nursing care isn't always available. Smaller hospice operations - those with less than seven employees - aren't required to provide it since it would interfere with their other work.
Throughout a patient's illness, he may experience multiple stages of hospice care. Each levels adapts to changing symptoms, medical needs, and caregiver demands.
What are the Costs of Hospice Care?
The cost of hospice care varies greatly - depending on both the type of program and the available insurance. Citizenlink did, however, release an approximation of daily rates:
- Average cost for daily hospital care: $1,756.00
- Average cost for daily nursing facility care: $284.00
- Average cost for daily routine home care: $100.00
- Average cost for daily private facility care: $200.00
These totals often prove difficult for patients to achieve. This is why a series of government programs - including Medicare and Medicaid - is in place, ensuring that individuals receive the proper support.
Understanding Medicare and Medicaid
The hospice field suffers from an unfortunate misconception. Patients assume that their Medicare and Medicaid policies will cover all costs and provide access to all necessary procedures. The truth, however, is that these insurance options have specific limitations in regards to treatment. Individuals may find themselves unprotected.
Medicare - under its Part A and Part B plans - is required to pay for all medically essential treatments of patients (this includes supplies, prescriptions, therapy services, and counseling). It also must provide two 90-day hospice enrollments, as well as an unlimited amount of 60-day hospice enrollment. Its coverage is broad, even offering grief services to immediate family members.
However, it's not without exception. Medicare doesn't provide:
- Compensation for seeking treatments to cure an illness (all payments are instead directed toward pain management prescriptions).
- Compensation for room and board (should patients voluntarily enter inpatient facility - as opposed to being medically required to - Medicare is under no obligation to pay for it).
- Compensation for emergency room visits or ambulance transportation (only if a trained hospice professional requests these two actions will Medicare pay).
Medicaid proves a crucial form of insurance, especially for the very young or those of low incomes. This policy covers the entirely of hospice expenses (including medical equipment, medical supplies, physical therapy, dietary counseling, short-term inpatient housing, and more). It does, however, have one notable rule:
Patients must agree to give up treatments that attempt to cure their illnesses. All medication will instead provide pain management and symptom control. The pursuit of a cure will result in a loss of benefits. This rule applies to all Medicaid beneficiaries, except for those under the age of 21. These patients are too young to consent to the no-cure rule, and aren't legally required to do it.
Learn how Medicare and Medicaid affect hospice care and plan accordingly.
None wish to discuss hospice care. However, most will have to, with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) estimating between 1.5 million and 1.6 million individuals receiving some form in-patient, routine, respite, or continuous treatment. This number proves both the importance of this service and the need to understand it.
- Identify the best medical options.
- Study the costs.
- Examine Medicare and Medicaid policies.
Follow these steps to begin your hospice journey. Start a dialogue with both your loved ones and your doctor today.