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Weekly Tips & Insights

What is hospice care?

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Hospice is a common and important type of care that helps both patients and caregivers through the end of a patient’s life. The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) gets a lot of questions about what hospice care is and isn’t, how it works and other basics. Here are the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding hospice:


What is hospice care?


Hospice care is end-of-life medical and emotional care for patients faced with terminal illnesses along with help and support for their caregivers.


What do patients receive while in hospice care?


While under hospice care from VNA, patients receive:

  • ​Nurses develop a specialized care plan for the patient.

  • A specially trained staff to deal with the symptoms and emotional needs at the end of life.

  • Medications and medical equipment.

  • Volunteers, both people and sometimes pets, to help with stress and loneliness.

  • Physician guided care and ease of obtaining needed medications.

  • Bereavement care for 13 months following the death of a loved one.

  • Hospice services are available 24/7.


Who pays for hospice care?


Medicare and Medicaid cover 100% of hospice. Private insurances usually cover hospice, but each plan is individual to the company offering the benefit. Most purchase items are not included in this. Examples of these include sheets, pillows, pajamas, special cushions or anything not related to the terminal illness.


Who qualifies for hospice care?


To qualify for hospice care, a hospice care doctor or your primary care physician must certify that you’re terminally ill, meaning you have a life expectancy of six months or less. When you agree to hospice care, you’re agreeing to comfort care instead of care to cure your illness.


Who is part of the hospice care team?


Hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team that includes:

  • Nurses

  • Hospice Care Aides

  • Chaplains

  • Social Workers

  • Medical Director

  • Volunteers


Where can hospice care occur?


Hospice care is available in any place the patient calls home.


What are bereavement services?


At VNA, bereavement services are offered to loved ones for 13 months following death. This may be written information, phone calls, visits and support groups. At the time of death, the hospice team assesses the needs of the bereaved family members and caregivers for the level of grief support needed.


Regardless of the amount of preparation for a loved one's death, it doesn't always prepare caregivers or family members for the reality that they will no longer see their loved one. For some caregivers and family members, grief can be complicated due to multiple losses, lack of coping skills, financial issues, poor health, etc. VNA provides support to caregivers and family members during their grief journey.


How do I get hospice care started?


Generally this is a conversation with a physician, but families/patients can contact hospice directly and request an evaluation.


For even more program FAQs, visit https://www.vnastl.com/hospice-care-faqs

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