When is it time for Hospice?

When do I know the time is right for Hospice services?

Hospice coverage is intended for patients with six months or less to live. Many families who have been served by hospice wish that they had taken advantage of hospice services sooner. The majority of patients spend far less than six months under hospice care, and that makes it difficult to take full advantage of hospice’s ability to make a patient’s final days more peaceful and comfortable. We encourage you to plan ahead whenever possible. Survivor support services are also available.

How do I set up Hospice services? 

A conversation about the need for hospice care may be initiated by the patient, the patient’s family, or the attending physician.

  • Before providing care, hospice staff meets with the patient's personal physician(s) and a hospice physician to discuss the patient’s history, current physical symptoms, and life expectancy.
  • After an initial meeting with the medical team, hospice staff meets with both the patient and their family to discuss the hospice philosophy, available services, and expectations.
  • In some situations, the patient and family may not have communicated end-of-life wishes. In such a case, it's best to discuss the appropriateness of hospice care with the patient’s attending physician and then request a referral. Some doctors are uneasy about bringing up the subject of hospice care and may not want to be the first to start the conversation.
  • Families or patients can begin a self-referral process through a hospice provider if the doctor is unable to discuss hospice care or if there is no attending physician available. In this example, a patient or family should contact a hospice that serves the patient’s geographic area, describe the situation, including medical history and condition, and ask for guidance. (See Resources for a list of local hospice providers.)

How long do services last?

Hospice care is available for as long as the patient needs it. As long as a physician certifies that the patient continues to meet guidelines for receiving hospice care, hospice is available for an unlimited number of 60-day periods.

Can I choose my hospice provider?

In most situations, families can choose the hospice provider and have the option to change programs or revoke care. There are close to 5,000 U.S. hospices, located in every state and serving all but the most isolated communities.


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