Questions About Hospice Care

Although the concept of hospice has been around since the early 70′s in the United States, many still have questions about hospice care. Awareness regarding this important health care resource is especially helpful for those living with a terminal illness. Local organizations like San Diego Hospice offer community outreach programs to help educate individuals and groups about hospice care.

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Some of the most commonly asked questions about hospice care (and answers) are shown below:

What Is Hospice Care?
Recognized as a optimum model of health care for adults and children living with a serious or terminal illness, hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, spiritual, and emotional support. The plan of care is focused on the patient’s needs and wishes. Support and guidance is also provided to the patient’ s loved ones as well.

Who Pays For Hospice Care?
Medicare, Medicare HMOs, Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) and private insurance plans based in the state of California have a hospice benefit that covers most costs associated with hospice care which include:

  • Home visits by the hospice care team members
  • Medications related to the hospice diagnosis
  • Medical equipment / supplies related to the hospice diagnosis

What Kinds Of Illnesses Are Cared For By Hospice?
Hospice care is provided to adults, children and infants living with any life-limiting or terminal illness (as long as eligibility criteria is met) such as severe birth defects, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, stroke, ALS, Parkinson’s, and end-stage heart, lung, kidney or liver disease. Hospice care also supports the patient’s family members and loved ones of all ages during the illness and offers bereavement support after the death of the patient.

Who Is Eligible For Hospice Care:

  • The patient’s personal primary care physician and the hospice’s medical director both certify that you have a prognosis of six months* or less, if the illness runs its usual course.
  • The patient’s goals for care focus on comfort and quality of life rather than on cure of the illness.

*Hospice services are not limited to a six-month time period. A patient will continue to receive hospice services beyond six months if the illness is still present and considered “terminal,” and treatment goals continue to focus primarily on comfort rather than cure.

If You Are On Hospice, Can You Keep Your Own Doctor?
Yes. Patients may remain under the care of their personal primary physician while receiving hospice care.

How Do You Start Hospice Care? Should I Wait For My Doctor to Suggest Hospice?
Although a physician-order is required to start hospice care, patients and family caregivers are encouraged to ask their physician or health care provider if hospice care should be a consideration now or in the near future. If you are wondering “Is it time for hospice”, then click here and scroll down the webpage to take a quick quiz.

Must You Leave Your Home To Receive Hospice Care?
No. Hospice is a philosophy of care for people who are living with a terminal illness, no matter where they live. Care is provided in the patient’s home or wherever the patient resides, including residential, skilled nursing, and assisted living facilities.

Are All Hospice Programs The Same?
No. Although the philosophy of hospice is the same among programs, services can differ. For example, in San Diego, there are approximately 19 different hospice programs – all independent from one another – and all offer different services, depending on the hospice program’s operations model.

For more information on hospice care in San Diego, call toll-free at 1-866-688-1600. To find out about hospice programs in the state of California, visit the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association website at Nationally, visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website at

Written by mdelacalzada

Communications Executive, Social Media Aficionado, Caregiver Advocate. Currently serves as the Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations at San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine, a non-profit community-owned healthcare organization since 1977.


One Comment on "Questions About Hospice Care"

  1. Michael says:

    Thank you Mdelacalzada,

    When one is going through this difficult time themselves or for a loved-one, emotions can flood and fog, and cause even more pain. To have clarity and trust is a great comfort.

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