Who Is Eligible for Hospice?

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the idea of “specialized care for the dying” was introduced in the United States by Dame Cicely Saunders in 1963. Since that time, hospice care has come a long way and is widely recognized as an important benefit that can greatly improve quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses.

Despite its long history, hospice care is widely misunderstood. Beyond paying for hospice care, eligibility is one of the biggest areas of confusion, so here are a few important things to know:

  • A hospice doctor and another physician must certify that the patient is terminally ill. This means that they believe that life expectancy is less than six months if the illness progresses at its typical rate.
  • The patient must agree to the transition away from treatments to stop or delay the illness’ progression to comfort care – treating pain and other systems.
  • Medicare covers hospice care for most patients. To be eligible, an individual must be entitled to Part A of Medicare.
  • Hospice care is available for a wide variety of illnesses. Some have specific criteria that your physician and a hospice physician will review.

Other considerations include:

  • The patient and family must fully understand the prognosis for the illness and agree to participate in hospice care.
  • The patient and family must provide informed consent.
  • The patient and family must sign an election form.

At Siena Hospice, our trained hospice professionals can help explain any questions about hospice eligibility and walk you through the process, whether you are a patient, loved one, or healthcare professional.

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