When is it Time to Choose Hospice Care?

At-home nurse visit

Many of us assume we’ll always have a little more time with our aging parents or grandparents. Even when our loved ones are in the late stage of a serious illness, medical treatments may offer hope for longer life. But medicine can only take us so far.

Signs it may be time for hospice

  1. Frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER
  2. Frequent or reoccurring infections
  3. Less desire to eat, leading to significant weight loss and changes in body composition
  4. Rapid decline in health over past six months, even with aggressive medical treatments
  5. Uncontrolled pain, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting
  6. Decreasing alertness, withdrawal, increased sleeping or mental confusion
  7. Inability to perform tasks of daily living, such as eating, walking, using the bathroom, personal cleaning or getting dressed
  8. Decision to focus on quality of life, instead of aggressive treatments.

Don't put off conversation about end-of-life care

Patients often say quality of life is more important than how long they’ll live. An important first step is having clear and honest conversations about the kind care you want. Talk to your family, your doctor and others you trust. Comfort care does not mean you’re giving up. It is support centered on your needs so you can focus on having the best quality of life possible.

Finding the right care

Making medical decisions during times of urgent need can be stressful. Try to find some quiet time to think about your needs and goals. When you have a better understanding about your own priorities, you can be bold about sharing those with health care providers.

Medicare and Veterans benefits

Coverage includes nurses, other caregivers, medicines, supplies and equipment, with no out-of-pocket expenses for the hospice diagnosis.

Hospice eligibility under Medicare requires that an individual is entitled to Medicare Part A and a doctor determines life expectancy is six months or less, if the terminal illness runs its normal course. Patients must forgo treatment for their terminal illness, but may continue all other medical treatments.

VA benefits

End-of-life care is part of the Veterans Health Administration benefits package. Expenses for hospice-related services or enrolled veterans are covered at 100 percent. 

Starting, stopping or transferring care

No one wants hospice too early. Remember that you have the option to end hospice and restart curative care at any time. People also have the option to transfer to a new care provider.

Palliative care options

Palliative care is an option for those seeking to reduce the symptoms, side effects and anxiety of a serious illness. Patients are not required to forego medical treatments to cure their illness. They receive care to reduce pain, other symptoms and the sometimes debilitating side effects of medical treatments.

Palliative care often includes goals of care conversations and advance care planning to provide a roadmap for future health care decision-making that can reduce stress on both patients and family members.

All locations are licensed in their state and certified by Medicare, VA Tricare and Medicaid.

Starting hospice or palliative care

  • If you have an immediate need, go to our location finder to find the phone number for the local office.
  • Complete a referral. Anyone can make a referral. Our admissions coordinator will promptly contact all responsible parties to plan consultations or patient assessments.
  • Our admission team works directly with families and healthcare professionals on a personal care plan. We bring hospice care to wherever the patient calls home, whether in a private home, nursing home or long-term care community.