What Is Hospice?

Hospice originated in Europe and was a shelter or lodging for travelers, pilgrims, foundlings, or the destitute. It has now evolved into a program that provides palliative (comfort) care to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients, allowing them to die peacefully with dignity.

To receive hospice services, a person must be certified as “terminally ill”. They must have a life-limiting disease which their physician and the hospice medical director both agree will cause the person to die within six months if the disease runs its usual course. A life-limiting disease is one which usually leads to death, such as Alzheimer’s, cancers, AIDS, end-stage heart or lung or kidney disease.

Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurers. The hospice agency bills the insurer (Medicare, etc.) for each day that service is provided. If a patient has no coverage several hospices will accept patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Patients may receive hospice services wherever they are living. Most patients prefer to remain in their own home. If this is not possible they can receive hospice services wherever they are including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Hospice does not mean giving up but helps maintain or improve the quality of life when the quantity of life can no longer be extended.