Information for End-of-Life Choices: What Is Hospice?
Hospice provides comfort and support to a person who is nearing the end of life. Hospice focuses on quality of life. And it helps someone live his or her last days with a sense of control and dignity. Hospice programs support both the Veteran and his or her family. They include physical, emotional, social, and spiritual services. This sheet tells you more about hospice. It may help you decide if this care is right for you or your Veteran.
The Goals of Hospice
Hospice is a special type of care for persons with a terminal illness. Its goal is not to shorten life. Instead, the goal is to give comfort and support to a dying person and their loved ones. Hospice care helps to ease disease symptoms, such as pain, nausea, and breathing problems. It also helps to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of a dying person, and those of their family and friends.
Qualifying for Hospice
A person with an illness can receive hospice care when a VA doctor believes he or she has about 6 months or less to live. Hospice continues as long as it is needed. If the Veteran’s health improves, he or she can end the hospice care and start it again later. Also, a person receiving hospice care has the right to leave hospice care at any time for any reason.
The Services of Hospice
Hospice care is often provided in the home, but may be provided in a facility. Hospice care is provided by a team. The team may include a doctor, nurse, home health aide, social worker, chaplain, counselor, trained volunteer, and others as needed. If hospice is done at home, family members give day-to-day care with support from the hospice team. Support is given to the Veteran and his or her family in many ways. The hospice team:
Manages the Veteran’s pain and symptoms.
Provide emotional support.
Provides needed medications, medical supplies and equipment.
Coaches family on how to care for the Veteran.
Coordinates inpatient care when pain or symptoms become too difficult to manage at home or the caregiver needs respite time.
Provides grief support for the Veteran and family.
Who Pays for Hospice?
Hospice and palliative care is part of every enrolled Veteran’s benefit package. Medicare also covers hospice care, and for those under age 65, Medicaid often covers hospice care as do many health insurance companies. The hospice team can help you learn details about hospice benefits. VA provides inpatient hospice care in many of its facilities and offers to purchase hospice care for enrolled Veterans in the community.