By Helen Kirwan-Taylor
Many years ago I had a falling-out with a girlfriend that proved so painful, I can hardly talk about it today. My friend (let's call her Mary) was a colorful television personality and had the world at her feet. She was engaged to a handsome European, and her face was plastered across the newspapers. I was working for 60 Minutes at the time, and we often met for lunch. Then one day her show was canceled and she asked me - casually, as though it didn't really matter...
You have a disease or illness that is expected
to shorten your life.
Treatment that tries to cure the disease or
prolong your life has become more of a burden than a benefit to
You would like to spend your remaining life as comfortably as
possible in a setting that you choose, such as your own home.
want family and friends to participate in your care.
You want your
loved one who has a serious illness to die comfortably at home.
Some people who might benefit from hospice care don't
receive it. Many people, including some health
professionals, simply don't know much about it. It can be hard
for a doctor to talk to a patient about hospice, because it means talking about the end of life.
It can also be
hard for you and your family to accept that the end of life is
near. Some families choose to pursue aggressive medical care up to the
Who is eligible
Eligibility for most hospice programs is usually based on two main requirements:
Your illness can't be cured. This is called a terminal
Your doctor expects that you will live 6
months or less if your illness runs its normal course. Typically a form must be
signed by your primary doctor as well as the medical director or physician
member of a hospice team.
It can be hard for doctors to know how long a person will
live. Some people live longer than expected. If you do live longer than 6 months,
you can continue with hospice. If your illness gets better, you can stop
receiving hospice care. You may no longer qualify for it.
Hospice care is generally paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Care may also be available to those unable to pay.