4 Levels of Hospice Care

man holding hand

Caring for a loved one who is terminally ill can be challenging both physically and mentally. The patient may require attentive, round-the-clock care to manage their symptoms, which can place a lot of stress on loved ones.

Hospice care is a state benefit provided by Medicare that can help make caring for a loved one with a terminal illness who is reaching the end of their life a little easier. There are many roles of a hospice care team or services they provide, which can include physician services, counseling, nursing, medical social services, home health aids, and physical therapy.

What’s important to understand about hospice care is that it is not designed to cure the illness or prolong life. It is not meant to hasten death either. The goal is to help people manage the last days of their lives with comfort so they can pass more peacefully and naturally with dignity.

The rules and regulations for hospice care can vary by state, however, all Medicare-certified hospices offer the same four levels of hospice care. The types of hospice care specifically needed will depend on the patient’s and caregiver’s individual needs.

1. Hospice Care at Home

The first level of hospice care is routine home care. This is the most common type of hospice care and is provided when a patient is relatively stable and their symptoms can be adequately controlled in the home. 

This is often the preferred type of hospice care because it allows the patient to remain in a comforting setting surrounded by familiar faces. This can help ease anxious feelings and mental distress, whereas patients living in facilities or other unfamiliar settings can experience depression and elevated levels of distress, which may make their symptoms worse.

Routine in-home hospice care can include symptom management, assistance with daily tasks, therapeutic services, nutritional services, and emotional and spiritual counseling for loved ones and the patient. This type of care may be intermittent depending on the patient’s and caregiver’s needs. 

Understandably, this option might be challenging if the home is not suited for in-home care. Still, as this type of care can help ease distress, it is worth considering investing in home upgrades if possible. 

These could include eco-friendly upgrades to make the home a healthier environment, such as a new HVAC system or air purifiers. It could also include building home additions to make more space, such as a new room or even a new level where the patient can live and receive their in-home care. Just make sure any renovations are up to code to ensure the safety of the patient. 

If you can’t afford these changes, it’s worth looking into financing options such as home equity loans, FHA loans, or personal loans. Again, though this might feel like a major investment, it is often worth it if it can make the patient’s final days easier and more comfortable. 

2. Continuous Hospice Care

Continuous hospice care is also known as crisis care. This type of care is provided when the patient’s condition is severe and requires intensive, round-the-clock management. This type of care can also be provided in the home and is often short-term to help temporarily treat patients who are experiencing an emergency situation or medical crisis. 

Continuous hospice care can also be off-and-on, meaning it is only provided temporarily from time to time as needed. The patient could primarily be receiving routine in-home care and only need continuous hospice care when they are experiencing a crisis. 

This type of hospice care can help alleviate some of the family’s responsibilities, allowing them to still focus on their work and other personal needs.

3. Inpatient Hospice Care

Inpatient hospice care is similar to continuous care in that it is provided when the patient’s condition is severe and requires constant attention and management. However, the difference with this type of hospice care is that it is provided outside the home in an inpatient setting, such as a nursing facility or hospital.

Even if the patient’s condition is stabilized, they might still receive inpatient care if in-home care is inconvenient or too expensive. It’s also worth noting that some patients or their loved ones may choose inpatient care as it provides a neutral setting to spend time together in the final days.

4. Respite Hospice Care

The level of hospice care is provided as a temporary situation so family members can take some time off to focus on their needs. Instead of keeping the patient in the home, they will be temporarily moved to an inpatient facility or nursing home for a short stay while the family member or loved one takes a much-needed break. 

Supporting a loved one in hospice care is not easy. As much as you might want to do everything you can for them, you are only human. 

It is understandable if you need a professional hospice team to step in. In fact, it’s important that you continue caring for your own needs as well, including keeping up with preventative care. You’ll be better equipped to do your best for your loved one. This is the best way to approach end-of-life care with peace and compassion. 

Hospice care can also provide you and your loved one with counseling services to help you better mentally prepare for saying final goodbyes. 

Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. Follow her on Twitter

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