Many individuals do not understand the basic who, what, when, and where of hospice.  We have compiled a list of commonly asked questions to help educate and inform people in a way that makes them feel confident in making decisions about their care.

What is hospice care and when should it begin?

Hospice is special end-of-life care for individuals with life-limiting illnesses. Hospice is a patient and family support service that keeps the patient comfortable, teaches the family to provide care, and offers emotional and spiritual support. Hospice is a type of care, rather than a specific place of care, that focuses on comfort rather than cure. The earlier a person is referred, the more Varco Hospice can do to help. Sadly, many people believe that hospice is unavailable or inappropriate until literally, the last days of a person’s life. Through hospice services, patients can enjoy a better quality of life.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a treatment that focuses on relieving suffering and improving the quality of life for seriously ill patients and their families.

Is the decision for hospice care giving up home or waiting to die?

No. Hospice is about living. Hospice strives to bring quality of life and comfort to a patient and their family. Our successes are in helping a patient and family live fully until the end. Often patients will feel better with effective pain and symptom management. Hospice is an experience of care and support, different from any other type of care.

How is hospice care paid for?

Hospice is covered 100% by Medicare, Medicaid, and by most private insurances. Varco Hospice has never turned a patient away due to inability to pay for hospice services.

Who pays for hospice care in a nursing home?

The Medicare Hospice Benefit allows hospice in nursing homes for eligible Medicare and Medicaid individuals, as long as a hospice and a nursing home have formed an agreement. In a nursing home, hospice is not financially responsible for the room and board charges. If a patient is on Medicaid, Medicaid reimburses Varco Hospice for hospice, as well as room and board charges by the nursing home.

Should I wait for our physician to raise the possibility of hospice or should I raise it first?

The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other health care professionals, clergy, or friends. Studies prove that hospice should be discussed before the need, which will ease anxiety. Most physicians know about hospice. If your physician wants more information, it is available from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Helpline, 1-800-658-8898 or from Varco Hospice at 713-581-9190

Does hospice provide 24 hour in-home care?

No. Hospice provides intermittent nursing visits to assess, monitor, and treat symptoms as well as teach family and caregivers the skills they need to care for the patient. Members of the Varco Hospice team are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions or visit anytime the need for support arises.

What specific assistance does hospice provide?

Varco Hospice patients are cared for by a team of Physicians, Nurses, Social Workers, Bereavement Counselors, Hospice Aides, Clergy, and Volunteers. In addition, Varco Hospice provides medications, supplies, and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis.

How does hospice manage pain?

Varco Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so it can address each. Varco Hospice has an extremely high success rate in battling pain. Using some combinations of medications, counseling, and therapies, most patients can be kept pain free, comfortable, and peaceful. Varco Hospice nurses will assess your pain and symptom control at each visit and Hospice Physicians are always available.

Are all hospices the same?

No. “Hospice” is a medical specialty like pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, etc. and each hospice is a different company. All hospices have the same services, but their philosophies may differ. It is your right to request the hospice of your choice where more than one hospice serves your area.

Does hospice provide any help to the family after the patient dies?

Yes. Varco Hospice provides continued contact and support to caregivers for 13 months following the death of a loved one. These services may include personal visits, information concerning the grief process, and opportunities for group support. Varco Hospice also sponsors Grief and Loss Support Groups and support for anyone in the community who has experienced a death of a family member, a friend, or similar losses.

Is there any special medical equipment or changes I have to make in my home before hospice care begins?

Varco Hospice will assess your needs, recommend any equipment, and help make arrangements to obtain any necessary equipment. In general, hospice will assist in any way it can to make home care as convenient, clean, and safe as possible.

Must someone be with the patient at all times?

In the early weeks of care, it’s usually not necessary for someone to be with the patient all the time. Later, however, since one of the most common fears of patients is the fear of dying alone, Varco Hospice can provide Crisis Care during times of crisis for families. While family and friends do deliver most of the care, Heart ‘n Home can also provide volunteer support to assist with errands or to provide a break and time away for primary caregivers.

How many family members or friends does it take to take care for a dying loved one at home?

There’s no set number. Varco Hospice will prepare an individualized Plan of Care that will, among other things, address the amount of caregiving needed for the patient. Varco Hospice staff visit regularly and are always accessible to answer medical questions, provide support, and teach caregivers..

Is caring for the patient at home the only place hospice care can be delivered?

No. Varco Hospice cares for the patient regardless of their residence. Although most of a hospice patient’s time is spent in a personal residence, patients also live in nursing homes, a family’s home, or hospice houses.