Hospice @ Home What you need to Know

If you’re faced with the decision of where and how to ensure that your loved one’s needs are met after your physician has informed you of a prognosis of end stage Alzheimer’s, COPD, heart failure, ALS or Parkinson’s disease, hospice care may be the right answer for you.

Hospice helps patients and their families prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually for the end of life. Hospice concentrates on caring, not curing, patients who have been told they have a life limiting diagnosis and that the treatment plan now becomes one of comfort. This means in most instances the prognosis or time left to live most probably is less than 6 months if the disease runs it’s normal course. 

Caring for a loved one at the end of life can be emotionally challenging and physically exhausting. There are many things to consider when choosing between inpatient and hospice at home. Both provide expert and compassionate care. Talk with the doctor to understand the level of care. There may be circumstances in which the family can’t accommodate the needs of the patient. There may also be financial considerations.

At times, caring for a loved one may become too difficult to continue care in the home and people may choose to seek care at an inpatient hospice or other type of facility with hospice. If the care needs of your loved ones become overwhelming, respite care is available to give the caregiver a break. Care that requires intensive nursing and medical intervention, typically short term with the goal of relieving the symptom causing distress, is available in a hospice inpatient unit, nursing home or hospital.  All options can provide excellent care to hospice patients. To determine which type of hospice care is right for you and your family, it’s vital that you honestly assess your situation and have all the information.

Most people who are admitted to hospice prefer to stay in their own home, whether that be a house, apartment, assisted living or nursing home. Hospice works in partnership with the patient, family and health care team to provide supportive care that allows people to remain in their home. 

While each hospice provider has its own policy regarding payment (it’s considered an all-inclusive treatment in terms of payment, and hospice programs cover almost all expenses), insurance coverage for hospice can vary. Many hospice programs are covered under Medicare and most private insurance policies. Some hospice programs offer subsidized care for the economically disadvantaged or for patients not covered under their own insurance. 

Both inpatient hospice and hospice at home work with an interdisciplinary team with specially trained physicians and nursing staff; social workers; volunteers; therapists and non-denominational chaplains trained in end-of-life care to deal with the physical, social, emotional and spiritual care needed by terminally ill patients and their families. The team will create an individualized plan of care based on a holistic model of care.

In addition to the medical services that are part of hospice at home—pain and symptom management, therapy service (if needed) and medication management—the team can also provide assistance with personal care and home management, bereavement and spiritual support and financial counseling and education on end-of-life issues.

Perhaps the most important benefit of hospice at home is that it enables you to honor the wishes of many patients who are in the final phase of life who want to die at home. It also offers other benefits: 

  • In-home hospice can relieve stress for the family. When hospice services are provided in the home, family members who have been shouldering much of the caregiving gain a support team that will share much of the patient care duties. 
  • Home hospice can be more conducive to friends and relatives who want to visit their loved one in the final days, offering a more flexible environment than an inpatient facility.
  • Home hospice typically assigns a specific care team to the patient, which allows for a bond of trust to form between the patient and the care providers. In an inpatient hospice facility, staff can change regularly.
  • Ultimately, only you and your family can decide what the right choice is for you. Both options have their benefits and they’re both the right choice in different situations. Schedule a consultation and learn about hospice home care and if it’s the best choice for you. Weigh all the factors and try to do what’s best for your loved one.

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