6 Things You Didn’t Know About Hospice and Palliative Care

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. With 1.61 million Medicare beneficiaries using hospice and palliative care in 2019, a 3.9% increase over the previous year, it’s obvious that the need for these important end-of-life services remains and continues to grow.

In honor of November serving as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, here are six facts about hospice and palliative care that you probably did not know:

  1. The average length of stay in hospice for Medicare patients was 92.6 days, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
  2. Previously, many of those in hospice care were cancer patients, a trend that continued even through the early 2000s. Nowadays, the number of patients in hospice with Alzheimer's, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease is more than four times the number of patients with cancer, NHPCO reports. 
  3. Hospice care is provided where the patient lives, whether that’s a private home, care facility, hospital, or hospice in-patient unit. This helps clear up the common misconception that hospice care only takes place within a hospice facility.
  4. Hospice care isn’t always linear. In other words, a person requiring hospice care may need it for a certain amount of time but then no longer require hospice services. They may re-enroll in hospice care again in the future. Some patients even improve while in hospice care and are discharged, according to the Florida Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. 
  5. Hospice care is actually a specialized form of palliative care. Palliative care is used to describe the management of pain and other hard-to-manage symptoms associated with a serious illness. Hospice is a form of palliative care typically provided in the final months or weeks or life. As mentioned before, however, a person’s health status may change while under hospice care. 
  6. Hospice care is typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurances. It also is typically covered if a doctor and the hospice medical director certify that someone is terminally ill and likely has fewer than six months to live. Many hospice programs still will provide comfort care to a person not otherwise eligible for hospice. 

For more information on the difference between palliative and hospice care, you can read the following article from the National Institute on Aging.

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