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Hospice FAQs

1. When should a decision about entering a hospice program be made – and who should make it?

At any time during a serious illness, it is appropriate to discuss all of a patient's care options, including hospice. By law, the decision belongs to the patient or their legal decision maker if they no longer have the ability to make decisions for themselves. The sooner that hospice services begin, the sooner we can make a positive difference for patients and their caregivers. Hospice staff members are highly sensitive to the difficulties that individuals face in making a decision to elect hospice and are always available to discuss their concerns with the patient and family.

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

Do not wait. Patient and families should feel free to be the ones to initiate a discussion about hospice care with your physician(s). You can also contact Hospice and we can then contact your doctor on your behalf. Feel free to call United Hospice at 845.634.4974 to discuss hospice care and get the answers to any questions you may have.

3. What if our physician doesn't know about hospice?

Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician wants more information about hospice they can speak with us by calling 845.634.4974.

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

Certainly. If the patient's condition improves to the point that it changes the prognosis, Hospice is required to initiate dialogue about discharge from hospice. You can then discuss options for further disease directed treatment with your doctors. If a discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance will allow additional coverage for this purpose.

5. 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 the patient at this time. United Hospice has a medical director that is available to serve as the attending physician for patients who may not have a physician. The patient/legal decision maker must sign a consent/benefit election form. The consent form states that the patient understands that the care is palliative (aimed at pain relief and symptom control) rather than disease directed. It also outlines the services available.

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

Hospice will assess your needs, recommend any equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain any necessary equipment. Often the need for equipment is minimal at first and increases as the illness progresses.

7. How many family members or friends does it take to care for a patient at home?

There is no set number. One of the first things the hospice team will do is to prepare an individualized care plan that will, among other things, address the amount of caregiving needed in your situation. Hospice staff visits regularly and are always accessible to answer medical questions, provide support and assist with making arrangements for additional care.

8. What specific assistance does hospice provide patients/families?

Hospice patients and families receive services from a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, clergy, therapists and volunteers – each provides assistance based on his or her area of expertise. In addition, Hospice provides medications, supplies, equipment, and inpatient services if and when needed.

9. Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?

Hospice does nothing either to speed up or slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, so Hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during advanced illness.

10. Is caring for the patient at home the only place hospice care can be delivered?

No. Although 90% of hospice patient time is spent in a personal residence, some patients live in nursing homes, a family member's home, an assisted living facility or group home. We will offer services wherever the patient is. Residential hospice care is also available at the Joe Raso Hospice Residence in New City. 

11. How does hospice manage pain and other symptoms?

Hospice believes that that there are many factors that influence the onset and exacerbation of symptoms. Physical, emotional and spiritual factors may each play a role. All of these factors are real and need the attention of our staff. Our staff are experts in symptom management and are up to date on the latest methods used to achieve symptom improvement/relief. Using some combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients’ symptoms can be managed and patients kept comfortable.

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

Usually not. It is the goal of Hospice to allow the patient to be pain free but alert. By constantly consulting with the patient and physician, Hospice is usually very successful in reaching this goal. As the illness progresses, it is expected that regardless of the medications taken by a patient, he/she will be less awake/alert as he/she get closer to death. 

13. Is hospice affiliated with any religious organizations?

Hospice is not affiliated with any religion. While some churches and religions have started hospices (and sometimes in connection with religiously affiliated hospitals), these hospices serve a broad community and do not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs. UH offers spiritual care to people of all or no faith(s).

14. Is hospice care covered by insurance?

Hospice coverage is widely available. It is covered by Medicare, by Medicaid in New York State, and most private health insurance policies. Please note: The room and board charge associated with the Joe Raso Hospice Residence is not covered by Medicare. To be sure of coverage, hospice will check with your health insurance provider and inform you of any charges.

15. If the patient is not covered by Medicare or any other health insurance, will hospice still provide care?

The first thing Hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any coverage they may not be aware of. Barring this, care in the community is provided regardless of one's ability to pay. Hospice staff will do a financial assessment to determine any fees that the patient may be required to pay.

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

Hospice provides continuing contact and support for family members and friends through our Provident Bank Hope & Healing Center for 13 months following the death of a loved one. United Hospice also provides bereavement groups and support for anyone in the community who has experienced the death of a loved one.

17. How is hospice care different from other types of home health care?

  • Comfort vs. Cure: For most health care providers, the goal is to get the patient well. Hospice focuses on comfort and support, rather than cure.
  • Interdisciplinary Team Approach: All members of the care team - nurses, social workers, bereavement counselors, spiritual care coordinators, home health aides and volunteers - work together to coordinate care.
  • Family Focus: Hospice care focuses on the entire family. The Hospice team teaches the family how to be involved in their loved one's care.