My Loved One or I Have Been Referred to Hospice – Now What?

If you have never had personal experience with hospice, you probably have many questions about what to expect for yourself and your loved ones. Some people have misconceptions about hospice and what benefits it offers terminally ill patients.

The truth is, hospice is designed to offer much more to families beyond end-of-life medical care. Coastal Hospice’s mission is to provide holistic, compassionate support to patients and families facing terminal illness. This includes pain and symptom management to maximize comfort, meeting spiritual and/or emotional needs for the patient and loved ones, grief counseling, respite care, and more, all focused on overall quality of life.

Regardless of your perspective or understanding of hospice, if you or a loved one has recently been – or are expecting to be – referred to hospice care, you’re probably wondering, “Now what?”

Step 1: Electing to Receive Hospice Care

First, it’s important to know that you aren’t required to elect hospice care after a doctor’s referral. Everyone’s needs and wishes are different, and the decision to receive medical care, including hospice, should be made by the patient and his or her loved ones in partnership with trusted medical professionals.

Respecting a patient’s freedom of choice regarding health care, if they are able to make that decision for themselves, is a key component of quality-of-life care.

Qualifying for Hospice:

However, hospice referrals are reserved for patients whose life expectancy is six months or less and, often, who have decided to stop seeking treatment for their diagnosis and prioritize comfort. If a physician refers someone to hospice, it’s because he or she believes it will provide the best care considering the patient’s wants and needs. That being said, hospice does not mean the end – many patients in hospice care experience a more satisfying life and can live beyond the initial six-month prognosis. We hear from patients and families often that they wish they had begun hospice care sooner.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or even seek a second opinion to help you make an informed decision.

Step 2: Beginning Hospice Care

Once a patient elects hospice care, he or she (or a legal representative) has the right to select a provider. Your physician may provide a recommendation, but you can also do your own research. You can even request to meet with a provider or providers to help you feel more comfortable before you or your loved one is admitted.

Admission and Care Plan:

Your selected provider must have two physicians certify that the patient is eligible for hospice, then a member of your hospice team will visit the patient to begin the admission. The patient, family, and admission nurse will discuss the patient’s condition, available services, and equipment to support the patient and family, and an overall plan for care. Hospice services can be provided in the comfort of a patient’s home, or if needed, at an inpatient facility.

This care plan is designed with the patient family’s quality of life in mind and is ultimately driven by their wishes, meaning it can change over time to support what’s best for you and your loved ones – including pausing or ending hospice care, should the patient or a legal representative-elect to do so.

Step 3: What About Paying for Hospice?

One of the most common questions we hear in addition to when to begin hospice care and what it provides is, “How is hospice paid for?” The short answer is that there are multiple ways to cover the cost of hospice. It’s important to discuss these with your hospice provider and understand how they fit into your specific financial situation.


Medicare is most commonly used when patients are eligible, and it covers 100% of hospice care, but there are some expenses a patient may be responsible for such as prescription copayments or inpatient costs related to respite care or room and board if care is not being provided at home.  Medicaid coverage is similar to Medicare but is dependent on the state’s specific benefits, which vary from state to state.

Other Options:

Other options to pay for hospice could include military benefits, private health or long-term care insurance, or paying out of pocket.


Most coverages, including Medicare, require that a patient be re-certified for hospice every 60 or 90 days, depending on how much time has passed since he or she was admitted, but patients can continue to receive covered hospice for longer than six months as long as they are still eligible.

There are many considerations and questions when you or a loved one are referred to hospice care. The decision is extremely personal and should be respected as belonging to the patient and family.

Whichever decision you make, if you or a member of your family has received a hospice referral, think hospice care might be needed, or have any questions about hospice, Coastal Hospice is here to help. We bring you a team of Remarkable People providing Remarkable Care, including physicians, nurses, social workers, bereavement counselors, and Chaplains. This team will serve you with support and compassion while caring for your quality of life as a patient or family member.

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