Frequently Asked Questions



When should the decision to receive hospice services be made and who should make it?

At any time during a terminal illness, it is appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient. Understandably, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping efforts to beat their disease. The staff members at United Hospice Service are sensitive to these concerns and are always available to discuss them with the patient, family and physician. We offer information only visits to give you and your loved ones the information you need to make the decision that is right for you.

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 physician, other health care professionals, clergy or friends.

What if our physician doesn’t know about hospice?

Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician would like more information about our services, please have him or her call us at 800.635.7490.

Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery be returned to regular medical treatment?

Certainly. If the patient’s condition improves and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on with daily life.

If a discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.

What does the hospice admission process involve?

One of the first things hospice will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure he or she agrees that hospice care is appropriate for this patient at this time. (United Hospice Service has medical staff available to help patients who have no physician.) The patient will also be asked to sign consent and insurance forms. These are similar to the forms patients sign when they enter a hospital.

The hospice election form says that the patient understands that the care is aimed at pain relief and symptom control rather than curing disease. It also outlines the services available. The forms Medicare patients sign also tell how electing the Medicare hospice benefit affects other Medicare coverage for a terminal illness.

Is there any special equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?

Your hospice nurse will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment and help make arrangements to obtain it. We have contracts with local medical equipment companies who will deliver equipment to your home.

Must someone be with the patient at all times?

In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, hospice generally recommends that someone be there continuously.

While family and friends must be relied on to give most of the care, United Hospice Service has volunteers to assist with errands and to provide a break and time away for primary caregivers.

How difficult is caring for a dying loved one at home?

It’s never easy and sometimes can be quite hard. At the end of a long, progressive illness, nighttime can especially very long, lonely and scary. The staff at United Hospice Service is available around the clock to consult with the family and to make visits as needed.

What specific assistance does hospice provide to patients in their home?

Hospice patients are cared for by a team of doctors, a nurse practitioner, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, a dietitian, therapists and volunteers. Each provides assistance based on his or her area of expertise. In addition, United Hospice Service provides medications related to the terminal illness, medical supplies and equipment, hospital services, respite care, and additional helpers in the home, as appropriate.

Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?

No. United Hospice Service does nothing either to speed up or to slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of birth, so United Hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the dying process.

Is home the only place hospice care can be delivered?

No. Although most hospice services are delivered in a personal residence, some patients live in extended care facilities (nursing homes), adult foster care homes, assisted living centers or hospice residences. Patients can also receive hospice services in their local community hospital for respite care (5 days a month) or for symptom management as needed.

How does hospice help manage pain?

The nurses and doctors at United Hospice Service are up-to-date on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. Our nurses have received additional training in symptom management and palliative care, and most of our nurses are certified in the specialty of hospice and palliative care. This means they have passed a rigorous nationwide test to determine knowledge in palliative care as well as care at the end of life. If needed, physical and occupational therapists can assist patients to be as mobile and self-sufficient as possible and may be joined by additional specialists, such as a massage therapist or dietitian for nutritional counseling.

United Hospice Service also recognizes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so we address these as well. Counselors, including clergy, are available to assist patients and family members.

What is hospice’s success rate in controlling pain?

Very high. With a combination of medications, counseling and therapies, almost all patients can attain a level of comfort that is acceptable to them. IV pain medication is usually not required.

Will medications prevent the patient from being able to talk or know what’s happening?

Usually not. It is the goal of United Hospice Service to help patients be as comfortable and alert as they desire. By continually consulting with the patient, United Hospice Service is very successful in reaching this goal. Patients can take their usual medication that is ordered by their physician, who can remain active in the patient’s care.

Is hospice care covered by insurance?

Hospice coverage is widely available. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, by Medicaid in 42 states and by most private health insurance policies. To be sure of coverage, families should of course check with their employer or health insurance provider.

Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?

United Hospice Service provides grief and bereavement support for up to 13 months following the death of a loved one. This is offered through a variety of services such as support and counseling service, monthly mailings, grief support groups, and social support groups. Our bereavement services are for any person who has suffered a loss through death and offered to anyone who can benefit. (Hospice enrollment is not necessary.) United Hospice Service bereavement program is an extension of the total care provided to hospice families and the community.