What is Hospice Care?

Hospice Care is provided by a team of professionals who help the patient, their family members and caregivers cope with the unique demands at the end of life, specifically symptom management and pain control. This caregiving team includes a Medical Director, APRN/PA, Nurses, Social Workers, Home Health Aides and Homemakers, Spiritual Counselors and trained community Hospice Volunteers.

Hospice Care is provided wherever the patient calls home. Most all insurances have a Hospice benefit that covers Hospice Care at no cost to the patient, including medications, medical equipment, supplies and regular visits from the hospice team.

Who is eligible for Hospice Care?

Eligibility for Hospice Care, as defined by the federal Medicare Hospice Benefit, begins when a provider determines a patient has six months or less to live if their illness runs its natural course. We care for many patients who have a diagnosis of cancer, congestive heart failure (CHF) chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia/Alzheimer’s, liver disease, kidney disease, and stroke.

When is it time for Hospice?

It can be very difficult for a provider to determine the timeline of a patient’s illness and many of our patients tell us they “wish they knew about us sooner.” To help you decide whether it’s time to consider Hospice Care, see the questions below. If the answer is ‘yes’ to two or more, call North Country Home Health & Hospice to discuss options. Then, in consultation with your provider, we can help you think through what’s best for you and your family.

Have you or a loved one:

  1. Been hospitalized several times in the last six months?
  2. Used medication more frequently to ease pain symptoms?
  3. Needed help with two or more of the following?
    • Bathing
    • Dressing
    • Eating
    • Walking
    • Getting out of bed or a chair
  4. Had unexplained weight loss in the last year?
  5. Had shortness of breath while resting?
  6. Been diagnosed with a serious illness by a provider and told that life expectancy is limited?

What is the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Palliative Care is provided to patients who are living with a serious illness. Usually Palliative Care is provided in the hospital setting, to help manage symptoms for illnesses that may not be life-limiting. Generally, patients can be early on in their diagnosis and receive Palliative Care to assist them with pain management and symptom control. A patient can receive curative treatment while receiving Palliative Care.

Hospice Care is provided to patients wherever they call home. Generally our patients have an illness that they are not seeking any curative treatment for. The goal of Hospice Care during a terminal illness is to provide compassionate care and comfort, rather than a cure. Hospice Care also focuses on symptom management and attends to patient’s needs in order to enhance their quality of life.

Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice, or should I raise it first?

The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their provider, other health care professionals, clergy or friends.

Will I have to change heath care providers if I am admitted to hospice services?

No.  Patients have the right to choose and keep a primary care provider. The provider will work with the hospice team to develop a plan for care and symptom management.


Common Misconceptions:


You have to be homebound in order to qualify for Hospice:

This is false. Patients do not have to be homebound in order to qualify for Hospice care.  We actually encourage our Hospice patients to enjoy themselves and check boxes off their “bucket-list.” If they wish to get out of the house, go for a ride, take a short vacation we are there to support them and even facilitate these adventures.

You have to be actively dying to be on Hospice:

This is false! What is most beneficial for the patient and our team is to have time to spend with the patient and develop a relationship before a patient is actively dying. Many of our patients that come onto Hospice early on are independent, have the ability to make their wishes and choices known, can participate in their care and have the chance to build a bond with their Hospice team. Many of our patients still drive and do their own groceries when they come onto Hospice.

You have to have a caregiver to qualify for Hospice:

 We do require that our patients have a caregiver that will assist them 24/7 when the time comes that they need full care. As a Hospice agency we do not provide 24/7 care, but we do have the resources to help facilitate that care if needed. If you think you qualify for Hospice, but do not have a caregiver, please call us to discuss your needs. We always strive to help patients set up caregiving services and would never turn anyone away without trying to assist them.

Hospice means going home to be started on an IV Morphine drip:

 This is very false. Our goal is comfort and symptom management; however, only a very small percentage of our patients actually receive IV medications. With the help of our Medical Director and Primary Care providers, we are able to manage symptoms in the home, using medications taken by mouth; creams and patches placed on the skin. We also have Volunteers that provide Massage and Reiki Therapy.