Is It Time for Hospice?


Comfort is the end goal of hospice.

Your parent is gravely ill, or aging and losing her desire for life.  A medical provider suggests hospice.  What do you do?

Hospice means living with a focus on comfort instead of a cure.  Hospice means stopping aggressive treatments.  Hospice is making the choice to live with comfort and peace, often in one’s home.  Hospice often means the person has six months or less to live.

So you discuss this with your parent if she is able; or if she is unable and you have power of attorney (POA) for healthcare, you make the decision for her.  Then you contact the organization recommended to you by her provider and/or the facility where she lives.

Most hospice organizations send a registered nurse to visit your parent.  The nurse assesses your parent’s needs and decides whether she is ready for hospice.   Your parent’s ability to handle activities of daily living or ADLs—bathing, toileting, dental hygiene, eating and moving from a bed to a chair—is evaluated.  If your parent suffers from Alzheimer’s or progressive dementia, she probably needs a great deal of help.  Some people choose hospice because of one diagnosis, but want to continue to receive medical care for other health problems.

Once your parent is approved for hospice, there are papers to read and sign.

Most states include a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order Form with the paperwork.  Depending on your parent’s health, you might already have a DNR in place.

You will need your parent’s social security number.  You will need legal proof that you are and have POA for healthcare if she herself cannot sign.

Paperwork will include a list of the benefits that the hospice organization provides.  These will be specifically worded, so read carefully.  If your parent does have other conditions that require continuing treatments, note this wording: I understand I DO NOT waive the right to treatment or therapy for any condition unrelated to my present diagnosis.  

When reading and signing the Financial Responsibility Statement you are consenting to treatment and the assignment of insurance benefits.

  • Look carefully at the form to note who the insurance company or carrier is.
  •  Most hospice organizations offer care through Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies.
  • Most offer a sliding fee scale for people without coverage.
  • The cost of visits by a nurse several times a week and durable medical equipment, like beds, chairs and usually oxygen are covered.
  • This may vary if private insurance is responsible.

I recently made the choice for my mother.  She receives visits from a caring RN who has bright red hair.  My mother loves this, as she was once a redhead.  A volunteer chaplain says prayers with her and brings her communion a few times a week.

Hospice brought me a great deal of comfort.  If you choose hospice, I hope your experience will help you as you hold your parent’s hand during these final days.

Photo by Elessar