Medicare Benefits and Eligibility for Hospice Care

If you or a loved one has decided that hospice care is the best course of action for your situation, it can be helpful to know the benefits that qualifying for hospice care through Medicare provides. At Wings of Hope, we want to walk alongside a patient and their family as they navigate the difficulty of caring for those with terminal illnesses. It’s important for a patient or loved one to remember that hospice care, while often the best course of treatment, means focusing on palliative care rather than treating a patient’s illness. Here is an overview of what to expect when qualifying for hospice care through Medicare and how to start taking advantage of the benefits of Medicare-certified hospice care.

Medicare Eligibility

To be eligible for hospice under Medicare, a patient must first qualify for Medicare Part A. Medicare Part A is designed to assist in paying for inpatient hospital stays, nursing homes and hospice care, and differs from Part B, which covers services like doctor appointments and outpatient care. Depending on the patient, Part A is either paid with a premium or premium-free. If you or a loved one is qualified to receive Social Security, Part A is premium-free. If a patient has Part A, a doctor will need to certify that the patient has a terminal illness, and the patient will need to sign a statement agreeing to forgo Medicare-covered treatments and to focus more on comfort care.

Once your eligibility has been established, hospice care will typically cover any needs you have, whether in home or in a facility. When deciding to pursue hospice care, you or a loved one should not have to worry about what you can afford or what is covered by insurance. That is why it is essential to know if you qualify for Medicare-certified hospice and how to make the most out of it if you do.

Medicare Benefits

If hospice care is the best fit for the situation you are experiencing, qualifying for hospice care through Medicare is often a good choice. Hospice care itself is free for those who qualify through Medicare and comes with a number of benefits. While most patients prefer receiving hospice care in the comfort of their own homes, others require the attention and protection of an in-patient hospice facility. With Medicare-certified hospice, a patient and their caregivers will work with a hospice team to come up with a plan addressing their specific needs. Typically, this means regular visits with doctors and nurses, who will visit a patient in the home every so often to check up and monitor their comfort levels and prescriptions. Hospice doctors and nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure that no matter the time or situation, someone will always be on call in case of an emergency.

Depending on the patient, more specialized treatment options are also offered. A physical therapist can help with exercises that can relieve pain or increase mobility, and an occupational therapist can help patients and caregivers with everyday skills like showering and ambulation. Speech pathologists are also available if needed and can be a great help for those in hospice care with memory or other neurological issues that impact writing and speech practices, and a dietary specialist can also assist in making sure meals and nutrition are sufficiently handled. Because hospice care is more focused on comforting than curing those with terminal illnesses, the hospice team of expert professionals strives to care for not just the physical needs of a patient, but also any other needs they might have, like emotional or spiritual. This could include chaplain services or grief and loss counseling options for family members.

Many patients that receive hospice care have need for medical equipment and supplies that can be covered through Medicare. A walker or wheelchair are common pieces of equipment that help a patient more easily get around the home, and even something like a shower chair can help patients and their caregivers with everyday tasks while preventing accidents. A hospital bed that prevents a patient from falling and allows them or a caregiver to easily reposition them is also a great option depending on a patient’s situation.

While the patient is the focus of hospice care, the family and caregivers are also important to consider as well, and maintaining a level of comfort and care for terminally ill patients need not come at the cost of overburdening their family. That is why respite care is often a good choice – a patient is still given the same level of treatment, but it allows a caregiver or family member a break from the responsibilities and stress of caring for them for a period of time.

Hospice care can bring relief and comfort for terminally ill patients and their families, and depending on eligibility, going through Medicare often offers patients a lot of benefits. However, the option to pursue hospice care is often difficult – while you don’t want to be in pain or see a loved one in pain, it can be hard to see when it is time to focus on end-stage comfort instead of trying aggressive treatment options to prolong life. Hospice care helps those who realize their remaining time is better spent with loved ones than in and out of hospitals or care facilities. Getting hospice care through Medicare can help to ensure the transition from active treatment to hospice and palliative care is easy and affordable.

Wings of Hope specializes in hospice and palliative care, and we strive to provide hope and light to families in what is inevitably a dark time. We are available 24/7 to provide the support and information you need when navigating end-of-life decisions. The choice to pursue hospice or palliative care is never an easy one, and we are here so you don’t have to walk through it alone.

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