5 Commonly Asked Questions about Hospice Care

The Medicare Hospice Benefit has existed for nearly 40 years, but the benefit is underutilized and frequently misunderstood. There continue to be many questions, and myths, about hospice care. Below are answers to some the most common questions to give you better understanding of what hospice care is and how it can benefit your family.

1. Is hospice care only for people with cancer?

Hospice provides services to individuals with any terminal diagnosis and who have a life expectancy of six months or less based on a physician’s best judgment. This includes, but is not limited to, Alzheimer’s or other dementias, heart and liver diseases, cancer, COPD and other lung conditions, ALS, Parkinson’s and many other conditions related to end-of-life.

2. Is hospice care expensive?

No, hospice care is not expensive. Hospice services, including medical equipment and medications for your terminal diagnosis and related conditions, are covered under the Medicare and Medicaid Hospice Benefits. Most private insurance plans also offer a hospice benefit. Thanks to many generous donors, Hospice of the Red River Valley operates as a community-based, nonprofit hospice and provides care and services to anyone who needs them, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay.

3. When should someone call hospice?

Now is the best time to learn more about hospice. Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for patients and their family members to fully understand their care options. Having a discussion early on allows the patient the opportunity to share their wishes, priorities and goals. When you learn more about hospice care early on, it can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones. Hospice care, at any stage, but particularly early on, can significantly lighten the burden of both the patient and primary caregivers.

4. Does hospice speed up dying?

Hospice does nothing to speed up or slow down the process of dying. Hospice care manages symptoms and discomfort for the best quality of life and to minimize suffering. Choosing hospice does not mean death is imminent. Hospice care neither hastens death nor prolongs life but instead allows for better quality of life.

5. Will someone from the hospice be with the patient 24 hours a day?

A Hospice registered nurse is available via telephone 24 hours a day. Hospice staff member does not stay with the patient 24 hours a day. Hospice patients should have a primary caregiver, usually a loved one. Our team works closely with family members and loved ones to educate and empower them as caregivers. Additionally, the hospice team provides caregiver support, education and guidance. The Hospice team can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even on holidays and weekends, if you have questions or are in a crisis situation.

Choosing hospice care is a personal choice; it’s a conscious decision to move away from curative treatments and instead focus on quality of life. Hospice care provides dignity and comfort so what remains of life can be lived more fully. Additionally, Hospice care provides a great deal of support for family members in the form of emotional and spiritual assistance.

For answers to other common questions about hospice care, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page, or contact us.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, nonprofit hospice serving more than 30 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.


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