4 minute read

Hospice Care & Estate Planning - What You Need to Know

What does “Hospice care” mean and what should you know about it? Learn how to include and prepare for Hospice care as part of end-of-life planning.

It is hard to predict what will happen in life as we get older, especially when it comes to medical events and Hospice care. There are so many ways to account for potential life changes: preparing for the worst, counting on good health, or even avoiding thinking about it all together. As common as these coping strategies are, they are simply not helpful as we get older.  

The best way to anticipate future circumstances is by taking the time to plan out different scenarios. This can be done through the creation of an Estate Plan, particularly one that mentions your medical preferences. If you are considering your future or perhaps helping a loved one navigate theirs, consider the ways an Estate Plan could help. There are several things to keep in mind during this process: 

What Does “Hospice Care” Mean?

Hospice care is a type of support aimed at improving one’s quality of life during the final phases of a terminal medical condition or illness. Hospice providers focus on treating symptoms (rather than the disease) in order to increase patient comfort during this process. Care is typically provided at the patient’s home. The service is family centered, and allows individuals to spend their final days with loved ones. 

When answering, “what is Hospice care?” It is also important to note that this process typically begins when a medical condition becomes impossible to control or treat. Hospice is used when someone is expected to live for six months or less -- though it is up to the patient to decide when to enter. 

What Does Hospice Care Provide?

Hospice care includes a number of services aimed at improving quality of life. The exact elements vary depending on the patient and disease being treated, though there are some general services you can expect: 

  • A care team, including physicians, nurses, medical social workers, and home-health aides

  • Medications for symptoms and pain relief

  • Physical Therapy 

  • Dietary Counselling

  • Speech-Language Pathology 

  • Medical supplies 

  • Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or walkers

  • Grief counselling for both patients and family 

  • Spiritual advisors

  • Short-term inpatient or respite care when necessary 

Palliative Care vs Hospice Care 

Both palliative and Hospice care aim to increase patient comfort when dealing with serious, terminal illnesses; though there are a few differences. Hospice care is typically initiated when a patient is no longer responding to treatment and begins when the patient has a few months left to live. Hospice is often referred to as “comfort care” because it aims to improve quality of life before death. Palliative care is slightly different and can be pursued immediately following a diagnosis. 

Palliative care is another type of comfort care, but the patient can simultaneously focus on curative care and treating the disease. The purpose of palliative care is to help relieve patient pain and stress following the diagnosis of a severe condition. While it can be initiated during the final stages of life, Hospice is typically what people think of when discussing end-of-life care. 

The payment and treatment structures are also slightly different. Hospice care is often provided at the patient’s home or place of residence, while Palliative care teams work from hospitals. Hospice is also covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance -- and the patient is not responsible for the cost. Palliative care expenses can vary depending on a few factors. 

Hospice Home Care - What to Expect

Hospice care coincides with a difficult time for patients and their loved ones, but it is important to remember that the purpose of this care is to increase everyone’s overall comfort. If you or a loved one are entering Hospice care, it can be helpful to know what to expect at home. 

A care team will be assigned to assist you and your family. A team of providers will be designated to help ease the patient’s symptoms and well being. The care team will coordinate communication with physicians, counselors, social workers, and any other medical personnel that are assisting with the patient’s care. Someone will be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing you with around the clock support during this time. 

Family and friends are allowed to visit and stay with the patient. Hospice care aims to make the final stages of life as comfortable and positive as possible. Any family, friends, or loved ones will be allowed to visit and spend time with the patient at home. This is often a relief for patients who have spent long periods of time in hospitals or other medical facilities. 

Patients have the option to resume curative care at any time. Hospice care can stop at any point, depending on the patient’s health and wishes. If the patient’s condition changes or they want to begin pursuing medical treatment again, they are able to do so. The care team will keep everyone updated on the patient’s health status, allowing them to decide how to proceed at each point in Hospice. 

Advantages of Hospice Care at Home

Hospice care can be provided in a few different places, including hospitals, assisted living homes, and other healthcare centers. The most common option is for Hospice care to be brought into the patient’s home. Note that with home care there is still an option for respite care, where the patient can be temporarily brought into a medical facility when necessary. There are a few overall advantages of Hospice care at home. 

The patient can pass on in their own home. It is often comforting for people to know they can pass on in familiar surroundings, rather than inside of a medical facility. This can help both the patient and loved ones find peace in the final stages of life. 

Hospice care at home offers a lower-cost alternative to medical facilities. Hospice includes a myriad of services, but patients are typically still responsible for the cost of staying in a nursing home or other residential facility. By opting for Hospice at home families can reduce the expenses associated with end-of-life care. 

Medications and medical equipment will be delivered. Hospice providers will take care of any medical logistics during the caregiving process. Your family members do not need to worry about picking up prescriptions, home medical equipment, or anything else for patient care. All you need to worry about at home is focusing on yourself and loved ones. 

How to Create an Estate Plan for Someone in Hospice Care

The main goal of Hospice care is to provide the patient with as much comfort as possible at the end of their life. The support required to make this transition easier is not always medical, many people need emotional and financial guidance during this time as well. If your loved one has recently entered Hospice care, it is important to start thinking about the possibility of creating an Estate Plan. 

An Estate Plan is where the patient can designate a medical power of attorney, and specify end-of-life wishes in case they become unable to make decisions independently. They can also include how finances and assets should be divided and how to pass down family heirlooms or other keepsakes. It can be challenging to navigate Hospice care and Estate Planning simultaneously, but there are ways to make planning easier. 

The Role of Advance Care Planning in Your Estate Plan  

As you create your own Estate Plan, it is important to specify your own healthcare wishes for the future. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell exactly what will happen in life as we age. That is why it is crucial to document your wishes accordingly. An Estate Plan will allow you to decide how you want your end-of-life care managed, including at what point you want to begin Hospice Care. 

Many individuals start this planning process by having conversations with their spouse and close family members. It is important to talk over your plans and discuss them with the person you will likely name as your Power of Attorney. Once you have an idea of how you want to include advanced care in your Estate Plan, discuss your options with an Estate Planning lawyer or professional. For example, our team will be able to help guide you through the options available when writing a Will or other Estate Planning documents. 

Estate Planning and Hospice care are difficult to talk about and can stir up complex emotions. However, it is important to document your future wishes as soon as possible -- and to encourage your loved ones to do the same. This is a great way to ensure you and your family are prepared for the future, so as you get older you can spend your time focusing on each other instead. Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Reach out to us today or Chat with a live member support representative!