Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice Care Allows You to Choose

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, you face difficult choices at a time when you feel overwhelmed and saddened. In addition to dealing with decisions about medical care and treatment, you must begin saying goodbye and try to arrange financial and legal affairs. 

Hospice care provides trained professionals who can help with every aspect of end-of-life care - medical, emotional, and spiritual - not only for the patient, but for family members and caregivers. Many people do not realize that they are eligible for hospice care as soon as they are diagnosed with a terminal illness that is expected to run its natural course in six months. Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance.

Hospice care focuses on improving a patient's quality of life rather than on aggressive medical treatment to try to prolong life. Hospice services are offered in your own home, in a hospice center, and often in nursing homes and hospitals. Among the services offered by hospice are:

  • Medical care focused on pain and symptom control
  • Medical supplies and equipment 
  • Counseling and social support for the patient and his or her family during and after the terminal illness
  • Guidance in making end-of-life arrangements
  • Physical, occupational, speech, and massage therapy
  • Respite care to give caregivers a break 
  • Assistance with housekeeping, preparing meals and running errands when needed
  • Pastoral care if desired

Hospice care allows the patient to choose where he or she wants to die at home or in a medical facility, and provides the necessary support for family members and caregivers. Do not wait until the last few days or weeks to seek hospice care. Hospice services help to make a patient's final months enriching and spiritually fulfilling, and relieve stress and anxiety about the unknown. The patient can maintain a relationship with his or her doctor while receiving additional care and support.

A patient becomes eligible for hospice care when a doctor diagnoses a terminal illness that will run its course in six months. If the patient lives longer than six months, hospice care can be extended. If the patient's health improves, he or she will transition to other types of nursing care. 

Patients with serious illnesses that are not terminal can receive palliative care to manage symptoms and keep them comfortable.

For eligible patients older than 62, hospice care is covered under Medicare Part A.  It is also covered by Medicaid and most private insurance, and in many cases is available for patients who cannot pay. Your insurance provider can tell you what services and benefits are covered.  

Your doctor, hospital, or insurance can help you find a hospice care provider, or you can contact:

Florida Department of Elder Affairs (1-800-96-ELDER) (800-963-5337)

www.floridahealthfinder.gov/Hospice/SelectLocationHospice.aspx

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: 
Caring Connections (U.S.)  (800.658.8898) www.caringinfo.org Email: caringinfo@nhpco.org

Talk to your doctor about hospice care and your other concerns about medical treatment at the end of life. Make your wishes clear. Together you can create a plan, and you doctor can help you get the services and support you need to fulfill them.

For more information:

End-of-Life Issues: A Practical Planning Guide. Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. (www.floridahealthfinder.gov/reports-guides/end-life-issues.aspx)

Hospice Care: Comforting the Terminally Ill. Mayo Clinic. (www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/hospice-care/art-20048050)

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