About Hospice Care

  • Are you thinking about hospice care for yourself or a loved one?
  • Has a doctor suggested that you look into hospice?

If you are just starting to look into hospice, you may wonder what your options are. This page answers common questions about hospice care.

For questions about starting hospice, visit Get Started with VNSNY Hospice Care.

For information about hospice care at home, visit Hospice Services from VNSNY.

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice offers a level of care that people need when their terminal illness reaches a certain point. Instead of trying to cure the illness or prevent it from getting worse, hospice care focuses on reducing the symptoms of the illness.

The main goals of hospice care are to make sure that a person’s last months are as comfortable and meaningful as possible and that caregivers feel confident about what to do and know what to expect. When a person is in less pain or experiences fewer side effects from treatment, their quality of life improves because they often feel better. In fact, some people actually live longer!

Hospice care includes medical care related to the terminal illness. It also includes emotional support and spiritual care, practical help, and personal care. Hospice care also supports caregivers and family members through their loved one’s illness, and beyond. Family members (or friends) are still the primary caregivers when their loved one receives hospice care at home. A hospice care team will work closely with you to make sure you know what to do and what to expect.

How Do We Know When It’s Time to Start Hospice?

Your loved one may be ready to start hospice care if:

  • They have an illness such as heart failure, COPD, end-stage kidney disease, dementia, or cancer that is considered terminal.
  • You want your loved one to get relief from pain or other symptoms in the comfort of their own home or other familiar surroundings.
  • They have been spending more time in the hospital or going to the emergency room more often. You may be afraid they will die in the hospital without loved ones nearby or that they will receive unwanted aggressive treatment.

If your loved one (or you, if they are not able to make their own decisions) chooses to stop treatment aimed at curing their disease, receiving care from VNSNY Hospice can allow you to spend more time just being with them.

Is Hospice Only for Someone Who Is Dying?

Many people think that hospice is only for the last few days or weeks of life. In fact, a person can receive hospice care for six months, or even longer.

A person is eligible for hospice if their doctor thinks that they would live for about six months if their disease ran its normal course. At this point in an illness, treatments are not effective and can make symptoms worse. With hospice, the focus moves to ensuring your loved one is as comfortable as possible and has a good quality of life.

Look for these signs that it may be time to think about hospice:

  • It’s harder to manage your loved one’s symptoms at home.
  • You may be calling the doctor, or even 911, more often.
  • Your loved one goes to the hospital more often, and stays there longer.
  • Treatments don’t work as well as they used to, or they cause side effects that increase suffering.

Starting hospice care as early as possible can reduce your loved one’s pain and other symptoms. It can help them breathe easier and feel less tired. Family members and caregivers often say that the support they received from hospice reduces feelings of guilt and worry. In fact, many people say they wish they’d started hospice care sooner.

What Illnesses Qualify for Hospice Care?

Whether a person is eligible for hospice depends on the stage of their illness, not on the illness itself. A person can be admitted to hospice with any illness. Here are some common hospice diagnoses:

Do We Have to Give Up Anything to Start Hospice?

Some people think that when they sign up for hospice, they need to give up their doctors or stop all medication and treatment.

This is not true. A person in hospice care no longer receives treatments that attempt to cure their illness. Instead they receive a care plan that includes everything needed to address the symptoms of the illness and to improve quality of life. The hospice care team will work with the person’s doctors and family caregiver to create a care plan. For example, a person with COPD will still receive care and services to manage their COPD—including medication and equipment to make breathing easier. And most people on hospice receive a hospice comfort pack. This is an emergency kit with medication that can relieve nausea, pain, constipation, and other common symptoms.

Where Do We Go to Get Hospice Care?

People often think they need to go to a hospice facility to receive care. But home hospice providers like VNSNY provide hospice care where a person lives. This means that nurses and other hospice professionals make home visits to provide the care a person needs. Most often, that happens in a house or an apartment. It can also be in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.

What Does Hospice Care at Home Include?

Hospice care is for patients and for their families and loved ones. With hospice care, the main goals are to ensure that each patient’s last months are as comfortable and meaningful as possible and that caregivers feel confident about what to do and know what to expect.

Hospice care respects your wishes, so home hospice services are based on each patient’s and family’s goals. For example, your wife or mom might have advanced heart failure and dementia. When she goes to the hospital, she doesn’t know where she is or what the tubes are for. Your family’s goal might be to keep her at home, out of the hospital. Her hospice care team will work with you, her doctors, and other family members involved in her care to develop a plan to treat her heart failure symptoms at home. The plan will include the services needed to help you meet your goal.

Who Provides Home Hospice Care?

It’s important to know that family members (or friends) will be the primary caregivers when their loved one receives home hospice care. It’s also important to know that caregivers will have a team of experts to rely on. Hospice care team members work together with patients, caregivers, and family members to address the patient’s medical and physical needs. The team can also answer questions, guide decisions about care, and help people  resolve conflicts and find peace.

With VNSNY Hospice, every family has a hospice nurse to oversee care and schedule visits from other care team members. There’s also a 24/7 caregiver help line so families have round-the-clock access to a hospice nurse.

Who Pays for Hospice Care?

Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and most private insurance companies. Insurance starts as soon as you are admitted into the hospice program.

In New York State, insurers are required by law to cover hospice care. But private insurance companies may limit benefits and coverage. If you have private insurance, check with your plan.

How Do We Get More Information About Hospice Care?

Caring for a loved one living with serious illness can be difficult. You don’t have to do it all on your own.

Get more information by calling us at 1-212-609-1900. When you call, you’ll speak to a friendly hospice expert. They will take the time to answer all of your questions. Afterward, you may need to talk to your loved one, their doctor, or other family members. You can call us back as often as you need to. VNSNY Hospice is with you every step of the way.

VNSNY Hospice can help. For additional information, contact us today.

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