FAQ:  What is Hospice?

Is hospice care just about medicine for pain?
Hospice care is about relief of suffering.  Pain is one form of suffering, however pain can be addressed by approaches other than just medications.  While medications can be crucial for some patients, it’s not the only way to address pain.  Pain may be physical, emotional or spiritual, and each requires a different therapeutic approach.
Who can receive hospice care?
Any patient who is diagnosed with a terminal illness is eligible for the hospice palliative care. All U.S. citizens age 65 and older are entitled to Medicare coverage for hospice at the end of life
What does hospice care cost?
Hospice is a covered benefit under most insurance plans. For Medicare patients, there are no out-of-pocket costs. Even the cost of related medications, supplies and equipment is covered.
How is hospice paid for?
Hospice is covered by most major insurers including, Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, HMO, and other private insurers. This includes medical equipment and illness-related medications. There is usually no cost to patients.
When is the right time to ask about hospice?
Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect from our hospice services.  Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern.  This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed.  By having these discussions in advance, both you and your family are not forced into uncomfortable situations or decisions you’re not ready to make.  Instead, people should be able to make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
Who can refer to hospice?
Doctors can refer but so can families or even patients. A representative from our hospice can come to the patient and then contact the physician involved, if there is one, for more information about the appropriateness of hospice in one’s care.
How does hospice care differ from other types of health care?
Hospice is the only medical specialty that focuses on the end-of-life care. Unlike most home health care providers, hospice recognizes that the patient will not get well and provides comfort and support, rather than a cure. Hospice of New Mexico care is provided by a team of interdisciplinary care givers. These professionals and specially trained volunteers attend to a wide range of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Hospice care focuses on the entire family, and educates loved ones about caring for the patient. Hospice care does not end when the patient dies. Bereavement services are provided for family members for up to 13 months after the patient’s death.
How does hospice care begin?
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a “referral” is made. Anyone can make a referral to hospice but admission requires the agreement of two doctors that an individual is appropriate.  A hospice representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family/primary caregiver.  Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral, if not the same day.
Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical care?
Certainly! If the patient’s condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, patients can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about their daily life. If the discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.
What if I change my mind?
Hospice is a choice, so a patient may choose to leave at any time. If a patient chooses to discontinue hospice, we work with their physician to make sure that there are no gaps in care as they transition out of hospice.
How long can a patient recieve hospice care?
The patient may receive hospice care indefinitely if the patient’s condition remains appropriate for care.
How does the hospice work to keep the patient comfortable?
Many patients may have pain and other serious symptoms as illness progresses.  Our hospice staff receives special training to care for all types of physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress.  Keeping the patient comfortable and pain-free is an important part of hospice care. Hospice staff works with the patient’s physician to make sure that medication, therapies, and procedures are designed to achieve the goals outlined in the patient’s care plan.  The care plan is reviewed frequently to make sure any changes and new goals are in the plan.
Can I be cared for by hospice if I reside in a nursing facility or other type of long-term care facility?
Our hospice services can be provided to a terminally ill person wherever they live.  This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility, apartment or home, can receive specialized visits from hospice nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers and volunteers, in addition to other care and services provided by the nursing facility.
How difficult is caring for a dying loved one at home?
Caring for a dying loved one at home can be quite difficult but hospice can help you and your family figure out how to find the care support you need. In addition to nursing care, hospice offers social workers who can help families and patients navigate these difficult times.
What if our physician doesn't know about hospice?
Most physicians know about hospice but not all of them have experience with hospice. If your physician wants more information, our physicians are available to talk to them and discuss their concerns. In addition, there are resources such as the National Council of Hospice Professionals Physician Section, National Hospice Helpline (1-800-658-8898) and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
Where are the services provided?
Hospice of New Mexico takes care of people wherever they live – in their own homes, the homes of friends, in assisted living apartments or nursing homes.
What are the hours of services?
Hospice care is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by just calling 505-872-2300
What kind of help will we receive?

A physician may recommend hospice, but only the patient, or the patient’s representative, may choose hospice care. The hospice team will work closely with the patient and the family to develop an individual Plan of Care.

This Plan of Care may include:

  • Physician and nursing care
  • Personal Care hospice aides
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains
  • Equipment and supplies
  • Medications to reduce distressing symptoms of terminal disease
  • Follow-up care for families after a loss
  • Volunteers (companions, errands, caregiver relief)
How is Hospice and Palliative Care different from other care?
The emphasis of hospice care is on quality of life and on maximizing comfort as the illness takes its natural course. Hospice and Palliative care focus on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients; delivered by a team of professionals. It is designed to address the physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and psychological issues that accompany end of life. We focus on controlling distressing symptoms and address other concerns the patient or family may have.
What if it just gets too hard for the family to look after the patient?

No family is completely prepared for the challenge of caring for a sick family member. To support the family, the hospice team may take a variety of steps including:

  • Changing the Plan of Care so that team members visit the home more often
  • Adding volunteers who can sit with the patient while family members take personal time
  • Recommending “respite care,” a brief period in which the patient resides in a nursing home
  • Helping the patient choose a permanent nursing home residence. Patients who choose to live in a nursing home may have to pay for the room and board “out of pocket.” A hospice social worker will help the patient and family understand all costs before any move is made.
What if a patient lives alone?
Many patients live alone through choice or through circumstance. We will develop a Plan of Care with the patient that supports his or her needs. It will include a plan for how to meet the patient’s needs as additional help is required.
Is hospice affiliated with any religious organization?
No. Hospice of New Mexico honors all religious beliefs and those with no affiliation. We focus on comfort and quality of life however you define that.

Do you still have questions?

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