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It was announced earlier this week that former President Jimmy Carter has entered hospice care. But just what is hospice care and how it can provide comfort and support?
Hospice care is for people who are nearing the end of life. The services are provided by a team of health care professionals who maximize comfort for a person who is terminally ill by reducing pain and addressing physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. To help families, hospice care also provides counseling, respite care and practical support.
Unlike other medical care, the focus of hospice care isn't to cure the underlying disease. The goal is to support the highest quality of life possible for whatever time remains.
Hospice care is for a terminally ill person who's expected to have six months or less to live. But hospice care can be provided for as long as the person's doctor and hospice care team certify that the condition remains life-limiting.
Many people who receive hospice care have cancer, while others have other serious or advanced medical conditions such as heart disease, dementia, kidney failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Enrolling in hospice care early can help you live better. Hospice care decreases the burden on family, decreases the family's likelihood of having a complicated grief and prepares family members for their loved one's death. Hospice also allows a patient to be cared for at a facility for a period of time, not because the patient needs it, but because the family caregiver needs a break. This is known as respite care.
Most hospice care is provided at home — with a family member typically serving as the primary caregiver. However, hospice care is also available at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and dedicated hospice facilities.
If you're not receiving hospice care at a dedicated facility, hospice staff will make regular visits to your home or other setting. Hospice staff is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A hospice care team typically includes:
Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs and private insurance typically pay for hospice care. While each hospice program has its own policy regarding payment for care, services are often offered based on need rather than the ability to pay. Ask about payment options before choosing a hospice program.
To find out about hospice programs, talk to doctors, nurses, social workers or counselors, or contact your local or state office on aging. Consider asking friends or neighbors for advice. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization also offers an online provider directory.
To evaluate a hospice program, consider asking:
Remember, hospice stresses care over cure. The goal is to provide comfort during the final months and days of life.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.
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