One of the most misunderstood areas of care is known as hospice care. Hospice care is available to people who have been documented by the family or treating physician to be terminally ill and in their last six months of life. Medicare benefits under Part A are available to the terminally ill patient and their family. Its purpose is to provide for the grieving process for both. Hospice for the terminally ill person can be made available in the home, assisted living facility or nursing home. The choice is up to the family. No longer will be patient receive medication and treatment to cure their illness, but will be given pain relieving medication coupled with comfort care for the duration of their life. Counseling will be available to the family to help them deal with their loved one’s death and the grieving process.
Under the terms of the senior citizens’ Medicare Part A benefits a portion and possibly all of their cost of care may be paid by Medicare. It is wise to discuss the options available to the family with the treating physician to determine whether it is time to certify that your loved one is terminally ill; in this case the hospice benefit may be available. This type of care differs from palliative care which focuses on relieving the patient’s stress while combating the serious illness with which they’re dealing. As a family group, you should insist upon your right to deal with the team of professionals who can help you through the end of life process. This team will include doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers, hospice aides volunteers, therapists etc. Keep in mind that only the hospice doctor or the regular treating physician can certify that your family member has a life expectancy of six months or less and is terminally ill. The hospice care can continue if the terminally ill family member lives longer than six months. It can be extended for two 90 day benefit periods, which can be followed by an unlimited number of 60 day benefit periods.
Never hesitate to ask questions regarding the hospice benefit. The social worker, hospital representative, or geriatric care manager can help you through the process.