By Jenn Sturiale
That whole circle-of-life thing isn't just for cartoon lions and gazelles; we humans are bound to it just as firmly. As we get older, so do our parents and other loved ones. Difficult as it is to consider, they may one day need our help -- just as we once needed theirs.
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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.
You would like to spend your remaining life as comfortably as possible in a setting that you choose, such as your own home.
You 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 end.
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 illness.
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.