Hospice services are normally restricted to people suffering from physician-certified terminal illnesses. To meet Medicaid requirements for eligibility, a patient must have a prognosis of six months or less to live. Private hospice services or services funded by other forms of insurance may have their own guidelines.
Hospice care is designed to provide medical, emotional and spiritual support for the terminally ill. Its goal is to help patients enjoy the best quality of life possible during their remaining time. Hospice care seeks to meet this goal through providing pain relief and other comfort care and through providing families with the resources they need to manage the practical and emotional aspects of caring for a dying loved one. Hospice services include support services for patients living at home, respite care to provide relief to family caregivers, and inpatient services in hospice facilities. They also usually include needed medical supplies and equipment.
Patients in hospice and their families normally have access to a member of the hospice team 24 hours per day regardless of whether the patient is living at home or in an inpatient setting. The hospice organization may also provide access to volunteer services to help with running errands, preparing meals and other necessary tasks. Following the death of the person in hospice, most hospices provide counseling and support for the family.