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What is hospice care and who is eligible?

Dr. Leslee B. Cochrane

Special to the Village News

Hospice care is a medical service that promotes compassionate care, support and comfort to patients when they have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness with a prognosis of six months or less; however, many patients live beyond this period.

Hospice is covered by Medicare and most private insurance and provides home visits from an interdisciplinary team including nurses, physicians, home health aides, spiritual care and medical social workers who assist the patient and family in developing a patient directed plan of care. Hospice also covers the cost of all medications, medical equipment and supplies required to manage the hospice related conditions and all care is provided in the comfort of the patient's place of residence.

Cancer, heart disease, dementia, lung disease and stroke are five common diagnoses seen in hospice patients. However, that does not mean that hospice programs are exclusive only to patients with those conditions.

Other situations or conditions that may prompt hospice include:

• Repeated or frequent hospitalization in the last six months

• Patients with difficulty performing their daily living activities (e.g., eating, bathing, toileting)

• Patients with declining cognitive and mental abilities

• Impaired nutrition and weight loss due to illness

• Continued decline despite curative treatments or opting to end curative treatments to improve comfort and quality of life

Early admission to hospice care enables families to navigate this difficult season in life and focus their attention and energy into what is most important. When selecting a hospice provider, you should review Medicare Compare ( which ranks hospice providers on a 1 to 5 star scale, based upon Family/Caregiver Satisfaction Survey Ratings. If you or someone you know currently suffers from any of the above conditions, then it is time to consider hospice care as part of your end-of-life care plan.

Leslee B. Cochrane, M.D., is the executive medical director of Hospice of the Valleys.


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