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Weekly Tips & Insights

How Long Does Hospice Care Last?

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Many caregivers understand the basic definition of hospice care, which is end-of-life medical and emotional care for patients faced with terminal illnesses along with support for their caregivers. However, caregivers (and non-caregivers and family members) may have questions regarding some of the details around hospice care, such as how long hospice care lasts and when benefits run out. Here are the top five questions caregivers have regarding the length of hospice care.

What factors play into how long hospice care lasts?

​​Medicare’s intention is that hospice benefits last six months or less. However, it is impossible to accurately determine a prognosis for every person. Some diagnoses like dementia are difficult to predict the trajectory of the disease. As long as a person shows a decline in their health status and a medical doctor verifies that the person is still eligible for hospice care, the person remains in the program.

What’s the longest somebody can stay in hospice care?

There is no limit to how long somebody can stay in hospice care, though Medicare tends to review patients that are in hospice care for over 800 days. While a few patients may stay in hospice for a long time (one to three years), most are in it for less than 100 days, with half of hospice care patients enrolled for 18 days or less.

Are patients ever discharged from hospice care?

Yes, patients can be discharged from hospice care under any of the following situations:

  1. Revocation: A patient no longer desires hospice care and the family/patient chooses to stop hospice.

  2. A patient and their caregivers move out of the service area.

  3. A patient is no longer clinically appropriate for hospice care, meaning they qualify for palliative care or some other form of care.

  4. If the patient or family is not compliant with the hospice care philosophy, there are dangerous conditions in the home or an unsafe environment for the patient or staff.

What can patients expect in the final days of hospice care?

Hospice care focuses on teaching caregivers about death from the beginning of care. Hospice care staff is available for support 24/7, but most families are well-prepared for end-of-life care and are confident that they know how to care for their loved one in the final days. Preparedness is a central result of the teaching and training provided by VNA for caregivers and loved ones.

Does hospice care end when the loved one dies?

Only if the family chooses to end the hospice relationship. Hospice bereavement coordinators will continue to support family, friends or other caregivers for 13 months following the death.

To sum it up, hospice care lasts as long as you need it, including after your loved one passes if you’re inclined to take advantage of bereavement services. From the beginning of hospice care to the end, the goal of any hospice care agency is to be there for both patient and caregiver, supporting them medically and emotionally every step of the way.

Learn more about the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis’ hospice program at

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