Hospice care provides terminally-ill patients with a better quality of life by keeping them comfortable and addressing their needs during their final life expectancy.
Planning for Hospice Care
Terminally-ill patients who are diagnosed with a life expectancy of six months or less often turn to hospice care. The focus of hospice care shifts from a cure for the patient to providing palliative care, keeping the patient comfortable during his/her final days. Palliative care addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual care needs of the patient, as well as the patient’s family members and loved ones.
In many cases, hospice care is provided in the patient’s home, but it can take place in certain in-patient environments such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities dedicated to hospice care. The patient must first be certified for hospice care by his/her attending physicians and willing to accept palliative care, understanding that no further cure efforts will be made. If the patient is legally incapacitated, a family law attorney may be able to coordinate hospice plans with a provider.
Once a provider is selected, a dedicated care team composed of a physician and a hospice nurse will be assigned and on-call 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The patient may also include his/her regular physician and a physician’s assistant (PA) or nurse practitioner (NP) as part of the medical team. The hospice team develops a specific plan that addresses all palliative care including pain management, medical treatments, prescription medications, and medical supplies and equipment.
Most in-home care and care in dedicated hospice facilities are paid for by Medicare hospice benefits which cover care for terminal illness and related health conditions, even when the patient has a Medicare Advantage Plan or Supplement Plan. However, once hospice benefits commence, Medicare will no longer pay for:
- Medical treatments focused on a cure, rather than palliative care
- Prescription drugs not related to symptoms or pain management
- Care provided by a non-hospice team member
- Care provided outside of hospice benefits
- Treatments provided in a non-dedicated hospice facility
- Room and board expenses in a non-approved hospice facility
For a hospice patient in Northwest Indiana, estate planning with a family law attorney becomes crucial. Legal documents such as a Power of Attorney, Living Will, or Advanced Directive must be created in a timely manner to ensure that the patient’s wishes are followed and his/her affairs are in order.