What’s The Difference Between ‘Hospice’ And ‘Home Health’?

• The primary goal of hospice is to prevent suffering and help someone with a terminal disease live comfortably as long as possible.

• Home Health’s [HH] is to maintain or improve physical function (daily activities such as toileting, dressing, walking) in someone not at the end of life.

• Both services are covered by Medicare/insurers for limited periods of time but a physician must certify that the service is necessary.

• For staffing, both services have nurses reporting on the patient’s condition to the attending doctor; and also offer help with bathing, dressing, etc., with frequency of visits ranging from daily to weekly.  Social workers are used more often when hospice is involved.

• The hospice’s medical director reviews the medications and general status at least every two weeks (during team meetings); whereas the HH sends reports to the patient’s doctor.  Some hospice medical directors [such as ours] make house calls, which helps improve care.

• Hospice agencies have a chaplain—someone trained in end-of-life issues/discussions—and bereavement counselor to support families for a minimum of 13 months following the death; as well as volunteers to sit with patients, or run errands for the family.

• Hospices pay for medications needed for comfort [often limited to their own formulary of drugs to control pain, shortness of breath, nausea, etc.]; non-comfort drugs [such as for lowering cholesterol] are not usually covered.  A few hospices may cover short-term palliative cancer chemotherapy or radiotherapy [usually to control pain].  Home Health rarely covers medications.

• There is no cost for any hospice service/equipment – such as a hospital bed, oxygen, or commode chair—whereas HH usually has deductibles and co-pays.