Hospice care is designed for patients who are expected by medical professionals to live 6 months or fewer. No one can say for sure when death will happen – sometimes it’s much sooner than anticipated, and other times life goes on for a long time.
That 6-month mark is a guideline, not a deadline: patients can still receive hospice care even if they live longer than doctors think. Care can continue as long as the patient’s own physician and our hospice medical director certify the patient has a prognosis of 6 months or less to live, if their disease follows its usual course.
That length of time is what’s used by Medicare to determine coverage eligibility. Decades of experience have shown that it’s appropriate for most patients in hospice care.
Nationally, between 2016 and 2018 nearly half of all patients lived 1 month (30 days) or less once entering hospice.
In 2020, Centrica Care Navigators had patients with an average length of stay of 76 days, well within the 6-month time period – and 18.3% had a length of stay beyond 3 months.
The purpose of hospice
Remember that the purpose of hospice is to help people with a life-limiting illness feel comfortable and cared for in many ways. It’s not to cure a disease; it’s expected that the person will die from their illness.
They shouldn’t be in pain during that time, though. Making life less painful and stressful – that’s the purpose of hospice.
Hospice care is available depending on the patient’s health, and the informed decision of the patient’s physician and the hospice medical director. The same quality of care is available throughout that entire time of care, whether it’s 6 months, a year, or even longer.
Paying for hospice care is never a worry either, even if care continues beyond the original 6-month mark.
When it does end
There are a few situations when hospice care does end, though, including:
· When the patient’s condition changes and they are no longer terminal – in other words, when they’re no longer expected to live 6 months or less
· When a patient voluntarily exits care
· When a patient moves away from the hospice service area
Those kinds of situations do happen for some patients, but most people who go into hospice care remain until their death.
Six months is an important number to know, but it shouldn’t be thought of as a deadline. What’s most important to families and to us here at Centrica Care Navigators is that people are receiving the care they should be receiving, no matter how long it lasts.
You can learn more by exploring our website or calling Centrica Care Navigators at 269.345.0273.