Hospice patients are usually in the last six months of life and most patients arrive at hospice after deciding to forgo life-support treatments or other life-saving medical interventions. In some cases patients may require a referral from a doctor in order to be accepted to hospice.
Hospice care is generally administered to the patient at his or her home, though care can take place in a dedicated hospice facility, an assisted living facility or nursing home, or a hospital. If the patient can be at home, that is generally preferable, as being at home can provide physical, emotional, and psychological comfort to the patient.
Hospice care is managed by a team of caregivers that includes medical professionals—nurses, physicians, social workers, psychologists, and trained volunteers—and the family of the patient. Close friends of the patient may also participate in caregiving. A primary caregiver (a friend or family member of the patient) works closely with medical professionals to create and execute a unique care plan for the patent.
For patients who are expected to live no more than six months, the cost of hospice care is fully covered by Medicare. (Medicare is a health insurance program available to U.S. residents over the age of 65 who have paid the standard Medicare tax for no less than 10 years. Nearly all Americans qualify for Medicare.) In addition, most private health insurance plans and accountable care organizations (ACOs) offer a hospice coverage and/or benefits.