Hospice is provided to patients who have a terminal illness – which is defined as having a prognosis of six months or less if the disease or illness runs its normal course.
MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS TO COVER HOSPICE:
- Physician's order
- Estimate of six months or less to live if the disease follows its normal progression
- Patient must agree to palliative care for the terminal diagnosis rather than curative care
Note: If you or a loved one are currently benefiting from treatments intended to cure an illness — it is not time for hospice.
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WHEN TO BEGIN
Hospice is at its best when it has time to work. Care that's provided for months is more beneficial than hospice administered only in the patient's last days. A doctor can best determine when the time is right to consider hospice, but here are some signs to watch for:
- The negative effects of current treatments outweigh the benefits
- Frequent hospitalization
- Chronic weight loss
- Consistent pain
- Frequent nausea or vomiting
- Inability to move about or maintain personal care
WHEN TO TALK ABOUT HOSPICE?
Quality time with loved ones is always the ultimate goal of hospice. When continued medical treatment might provide a few more weeks or months of life, but could make the patient too ill to benefit from that time, consider the quality of that time to make the best decision for the patient.
Patients can be eligible for hospice after a physician certifies they have a life expectancy that may be six months or less. If patients live beyond the six months, they can continue to receive hospice services as long as they show decline and their doctor continues to document their eligibility.
WHY SOONER RATHER THAN LATER?
Now — before it is needed — is the best time to learn about hospice. Even if end-of-life care is hard to discuss, it's wise for loved ones and family members to talk before there is an emergency. Decisions like this are best made when there is time to carefully consider all options, not when the need is immediate and emotions are running high. This can greatly reduce stress, emotion and anxiety when the time for hospice is at hand so the patient can enjoy the most quality time possible with friends and family.
Beginning Hospice Services
Hospice service can begin as soon as a referral is made by the patient's doctor. A prospective patient, family member or friend can either request services through a local hospice provider — which then consults with the patient's physician — or go directly to the patient's physician for a referral.
Once the referral is made the hospice provider contacts the patient to review the services they will offer and have the necessary forms signed. Typically, care begins within one or two days of the referral, but in urgent situations service can begin sooner.