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Hospice Care: Frequently Asked Questions

hospice care frequently asked questions

Are you or a loved one considering hospice care? Not sure what exactly it’s all about? Curious about eligibility or anything else? Good news—answers to all the commonly asked questions about hospice can be found right here, on Senior Resource!


What is hospice care?

Hospice care is medical support for those who are nearing the end of life. Treatment is focused on comfort care and symptom management. Any treatments are non-curative. Care includes:

  • Medication for symptom control
  • Medication for pain relief
  • Equipment such as oxygen or wheelchairs
  • Medical supplies
  • Personal care assistance
  • Grief counseling
  • Spiritual care
  • Family meetings
  • Respite care
  • Bereavement care

Is hospice a place?

Not necessarily. Hospice is merely a type of care, not bound to any institution in particular. Though there are hospice care facilities, hospice can be provided wherever a patient lives. This includes family homes, nursing homes, and assisted living.


Does entering hospice mean death?

No. While a doctor must certify that a person has a life expectancy of 6 months or less to enter hospice care, hospice is not a death sentence. It also doesn’t mean the patient will pass away in that time frame. Some patients may recover and discontinue services.

When should hospice care be started?

As soon as possible. A person must have a life expectancy of 6 months or less (if their illness follows its likely course). However, there’s no duration limit for care. In other words, hospice is most effective when received beginning as soon as a patient is eligible.

What are hospice “levels” of care?

Care can be provided in four different ways:

  • Routine home care is provided wherever a patient lives and consists of frequent visits by a hospice care team. Note: routine care does not include 24-hour care.
  • Continuous home care is when a patient requires more intensive visits from their care team, usually longer than 8 hours per day. This type of care is generally short-term and may include round-the-clock care.
  • General inpatient care is short-term pain or symptom control in a facility setting. Once again, this type of care typically encompasses 24/7 support.
  • Respite care is any service that provides short-term relief to family caregivers. The duration of this type of care generally ranges from a few days to weeks. Medicare will cover most of the cost for the first consecutive 5 days of respite care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (according to the National Institute on Aging).

To learn more about the four levels of hospice, click here.


Do you have to stop other medications if you are receiving hospice?

No. However, when receiving hospice through your Medicare benefit, drugs that are for curative purposes will not be covered.

Will insurance cover hospice?

Under Medicare and Medicaid, there is no out-of-pocket cost (or very little) to a patient. Most other insurances cover hospice as well. 

Who makes up a hospice care team?

Hospice is provided by a variety of team members, including (but not limited to):

  • Family members
  • Nurses
  • Hospice physician
  • Personal physician
  • Social workers
  • Aides
  • Therapists
  • Volunteers

What’s the difference between a diagnosis and prognosis?

A diagnosis is the identification of an illness or problem through the examination of symptoms. A prognosis is the likely course of that illness.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is any type of care that provides comfort and relieves pain or other bothersome symptoms. It’s highly specialized care whose primary aim is to improve quality of life. Unlike other types of care, it’s based on a patient’s individual needs rather than their prognosis (according to Get Palliative Care).


What is holistic care?

Holistic care focuses on treating the patient as a whole rather than treating only the illness. A holistic approach optimizes care and quality of life by including treatment for physical, emotional, social, mental, and spiritual health.

What if a patient improves while in hospice?

It happens! If a patient improves, hospice care may be discontinued. And, if it is needed at a later time, a patient can receive it again—as long as they continue to meet eligibility requirements.

More Hospice Help

Need more help with hospice care? Then start with these great resources:

Senior Resource Glossary of Hospice Terms

Find hospice care near me.

Medicare & More

Need Something Else?

Need help with retirement planning? Then check out Bob Carlson’s Retirement Watch!=


Popular Articles About Hospice Care

Originally published December 09, 2022


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