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Hospice Care - Considering Hospice Care

The last stages of a serious illness can be so hard. You may feel like you have lost control over your life and what will happen to you.

Hospice can help you get back some control by showing you what your options are and helping you make decisions about things that are important to you.

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You may want to consider hospice care if:

  • 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.

Hospice care for special situations

Some people are living with a terminal illness that is not predictable. They may not necessarily die within 6 months. In fact, they may live for several years. But they may still be eligible for hospice care.

There are guidelines for terminal diseases that have an unpredictable course. People who have the following illnesses may have hospice care when their disease has reached an advanced stage:

Many people who are living with a disease that has an unpredictable but still terminal course may also want and be able to receive hospice care. In some of these cases, Medicare might not cover hospice care costs. Medicare covers the cost of hospice in the last 6 months of life.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 14, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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