two butterflies sitting on flowers

Addressing the realities of a terminal illness requires a great deal of sensitivity and compassion. It is an emotional issue that takes a toll on the recipient and their loved ones. Fortunately, hospice care providers have specialists who can help you with discussing the issues and options. They can be of great service in developing a plan that prioritizes comfort, dignity and quality. Even better, most hospice services are paid for through Medicare.

There are several very good providers of hospice services in Marin County. They each generally employ a team of doctors, clinicians, caregivers and counselors. To tap into their services a person must first meet certain criteria. Medicare A coverage will include everything that you usually receive, which includes:

  • Items and services for pain relief and symptom management
  • Medical services
  • Nursing services
  • Social services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Pain management
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Health aides
  • Homemaker services
  • Spiritual and grief counseling
  • Additional services

Please note that last item. There are a host of other services, including such items as massages, that are covered, but generally not known. Be sure to ask the provider you select for a full list of additional available services. 

Depending on the individual’s needs and circumstances, the services can be provided at their home, in an assisted living setting, at a skilled nursing provider or even a specialty hospice center. Recipients generally fall into one of four categories: routine home care, respite, continuous or general in-patient. 

  • Routine home care is the most common. A person may choose this level of care when they do not require continuous hospice care. Usually, this means they are not in crisis — they are stable and can control their symptoms. 
  • Respite hospice care takes place in an approved in-patient setting. Hospice care professionals provide care so that the primary caregiver(s) can rest.  Typically, respite care is on a short-term basis for up to 5 days.
  • Continuous hospice care focuses mainly on nursing care, though a person also may receive homemaker services, hospice aid, or both. A recipient may receive continuous hospice care in their home. Someone may require continuous hospice care if their pain or symptoms become uncontrollable.
  • General inpatient hospice care occurs in an in-patient center, such as a hospital or nursing facility. This level of care focuses on pain control and symptom management that is unmanageable in home settings.

Most of us will only access hospice care once or twice in our lives. So, unfortunately for many, they put off having these difficult discussions and end up missing out on many opportunities and services. Those who have been through the process and/or advise others generally suggest you have these discussions well before a need arises.  In that way, if you ever need it, you can make informed decisions and take full advantage of the Medicare provisions. 

Simply stated, the primary objective of hospice care is to help individuals spend their remaining time in a peaceful environment and to help maintain quality of life. By acknowledging the difficult realities of death, you can reframe the conversation to what can be done to give a loved one what they deserve, a good ending. 

Although this blog is only a high-level overview of the complex subject of hospice care, our hope is that this may serve as a conversation starter. Grappling with an impending loss is deeply emotional. Working with a hospice agency to alleviate some of that burden can help you create opportunities for meaningful memories during the most challenging moments. 

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