Tag Archives: Medicare

Hospice Facts and Figures


The latest report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPNO) offers important and meaningful statistics regarding hospice care in the United States. The most recent year for which full stats were available is 2013.

The average time that a patient was on hospice in 2013 is 72.6 days.

Among hospice patients in 2013, 34.5% were on hospice 7 days or less before death occurred. 14.3% were on hospice for 8-14 days. Another 12.7% were on hospice for 15-29 days. This means 61.5% received care for less than a month. (We presume that many of that 61.5% might have qualified for hospice sooner and received a more complete assortment of hospice services.)

66.6% of hospice patients were at home in 2013 when they passed away. That number is composed of 41.7% who were in private residences. 24.9% were in nursing homes or other residential facilities.

Approximately 84% of hospice patients in 2013 were age 65 or older. 41.2% were 85 or older.

Of those admitted to hospice in 2013, 36.5% had a cancer diagnosis. The majority, 63.5%, had non-cancer diagnoses. Those included dementia (15.2%), heart disease (13.4) and lung disease (9.9%).

Family evaluations of hospice care after their family member’s death included this positive result: 73.5% of those surveyed rated their family member’s care “excellent.”

According to NHCPO estimates, the number of hospice volunteers serving patients topped 355,000 during 2013. They provided approximately 16 million hours of volunteer service.

The Medicare hospice benefit covered 87.7% of hospice patients in the U.S. during 2013. Medicaid, managed care and private insurance covered 10.0%.

These cold, hard stats are useful but they cannot describe the warmth and compassion that most hospice employees and volunteers have for their patients and families. The numbers are impressive, but it is important to remember that, ultimately, hospice care is about quality rather than quantity.

For information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.


Why Hospice?


  1. Because your loved one, even if he or she is bedridden, would prefer to be at home instead of in a hospital.
  2. Because the top priority of hospice care is patient comfort including relief from pain.
  3. Because going on hospice does not mean giving up.
  4. Because hospice focuses on the quality of a patient’s remaining time, instead of continuing treatments to prolong life.
  5. Because hospice team members guide family members and/or private care personnel on proper caregiving for each individual patient.
  6. Because hospice patients, on average, live longer than those who are not on hospice. This result has been repeated by numerous studies.
  7. Because hospice care includes necessary medical equipment such as oxygen, hospital beds, wheelchairs, etc.
  8. Because spiritual and emotion support is available to the patient and family members.
  9. Because hospice is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans.
  10. Because hospice is not just for the last few days of a person’s life.
  11. Because hospice is not just for cancer patients. While hospice provides care for many cancer patients, people with other life-limiting conditions such as Alzheimer’s, renal failure, congestive heart failure may also be eligible for hospice.
  12. Because hospice care is delivered with compassion.

For information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.

(photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124395312@N01/442372023, via http://photopin.com,  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

November—Time To Learn About Hospice


November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time to call attention to hospice care in America and the people and organizations that provide that care. Hospice education is an ongoing effort. We at Hope Hospice take every opportunity we can to reach out to the St. Louis community and explain what hospice is and what it is not.

It is encouraging that information and knowledge about hospice is growing. More people have had a relative or friend on hospice care. We find, though, that as more people learn about hospice, misconceptions continue to exist.

Among the biggest misconceptions:

Hospice is a place. While in-patient hospice facilities do exist, almost all hospice care in the U.S. is administered in private homes and in care centers (nursing homes and assisted living facilities).

Hospice is only for the very last days of life. When a determination is made that a person has a life expectancy of 6 months or less, a patient can become eligible for hospice care. Because prognoses can be imprecise, many patients stay on hospice care for more than 6 month.

Hospice care is expensive. Hospice care is a fully-covered Medicare benefit.

Hospice is only for cancer patients. Many hospice patients ARE cancer patients. But other patients have conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to congestive heart failure to kidney failure.

If a patient lives beyond the initial 6-month period, he or she will be dropped from hospice care. After 6-months, a patient must be recertified. If life expectancy is still 6 months or less, hospice care can continue.

A patient can only receive hospice care from a hospice that he or she is referred to. Families and patients may prefer another hospice, based on recommendations from friends, family and neighbors. There are significant differences among hospices.

The only reason to go on hospice is to get pain medication. A major goal of hospice care is to assure a patient’s comfort. But hospice care is a complete team program that includes spiritual and emotional components. It’s not just about the meds.

Again, the sentences above in bold face are misconceptions. During this month, we encourage you to take time to learn more about hospice care.

In metro St. Louis, call us at Hope Hospice for questions and concerns about hospice care. Reach us at 314-984-9800.


Hospice: The First Steps

Where does a family member begin when the need for hospice care for a loved one becomes more than just a vague, distant possibility?

Begin with research. Go to your computer. Numerous online resources offer information about hospice care.

Talk to friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow church members. Those who have had family members in hospice may be able to share useful input. Realize that one family’s experiences may vary widely from those of another.

Talk to medical personnel. Your loved one’s doctor, your physicians and others you know in the medical community.

Call us at Hope Hospice. If we cannot answer your specific questions immediately, we’ll get back in touch with the information you need. Our number is 314-984-9800.

Here are some of the basic facts of hospice care in the U.S.:

  • Most hospice care happens at home or in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
  • A person is deemed eligible for hospice care when a doctor determines that he or she has a life expectancy of 6 months or less.
  • The cost of hospice care is fully covered by Medicare. Also, many state Medicaid plans and private health insurance plans cover hospice care.
  • A primary goal of hospice care is pain and symptom control. Hospice works to help a patient maintain a good quality of life for his or her remaining time.
  • Hospice care is a team effort involving doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains and other support personnel. (Hope Hospice has a massage therapist to help with patient comfort.)
  • Hospice does not provide 24/7 nursing or personal care. It is up to family members or other loved ones (or hired caregivers) to serve as primary caregivers.
  • Hospice team members can provide guidance to caregivers who may be unfamiliar with all the necessary elements of home care.
  • A hospice agency may provide equipment such as hospital type beds and adult diapers.

The more you learn about hospice care before you or the doctor makes the call to the hospice agency, the better it is for you, the caregiver and for the patient.

You can call Hope Hospice (based in St. Louis county) with questions at 314-984-9800. You may also visit our website: http://hopehospicestl.com/













Nursing Homes and Hospice Care

At Hope Hospice, we care for many patients who are at home. They have caregivers who have the time and energy to handle patient needs between hospice staff visits. Research tells us that most end-of-life patients say that they would prefer to die at home.

But for patients whose needs cannot be met by in-home caregiving, Hope Hospice provides care for patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Certain family situations may make it difficult to take care of a patient at home. A skilled nursing facility may be the answer.

If you are considering placing a loved one in a nursing home, we encourage you to take care in your selection. Find the home that best suits the patient’s needs. Don’t judge the home merely on its physical appearance. Talk to friends who’ve placed patients in nursing homes.

At Hope Hospice, we serve patients who are in nursing facilities throughout metro St. Louis. The care we provide is a covered benefit through Medicare.

While the patient enjoys the services of the nursing home staff, the Hope Hospice team members make frequent visits to the patient. Hospice staff monitor vital signs, offer pain management and spiritual support, among many other services. We also provide necessary medications and supplies related to the patient’s terminal illness.

We work to coordinate care with the nursing home staff. We depend on the nursing home team to provide routine daily care to the patient and to report any changes in the patient’s condition.

If you have a family member who is facing a terminal illness but you are not able to provide full time in-home care, call us at Hope Hospice for help. We can provide answers about nursing facilities. We can also offer information about other options, including in-home care from an outside provider.

Feel free to call Hope Hospice with any questions you may have about hospice care at 314-984-9800.

Hospice Care Saves Money for Medicare

The results of a recent study published by Health Affairs, a journal of health policy and research, show that hospice provides significant cost reductions for patient care. This is great news for taxpayers because of the large portion of health care in the US that is funded by Medicare.

Of course, we have known all along about the savings that hospice care delivers. This finding just makes it official.

Earlier findings had indicated that, on average, significant savings to Medicare occurred only when a patient was receiving hospice care for at least 53 days before dying. The new figures reveal that shorter terms can also reduce average costs.

Patients enrolled for one to seven days before dying saved Medicare an average of $2,650. Patients on hospice for eight to 14 days resulted in savings of $5,040. And those who were hospice patients for 15 to 30 days before death led to an average savings of $6,430 compared to hospital and other medical costs.

Multiply those figures by the number of deaths that occur annually in the US. The result is savings well into the billions. With our state and nation facing multiple fiscal challenges, it is reassuring to note that ours is a portion of the health care arena where we can make a difference.

At Hope Hospice, our top objectives are patient comfort and symptom control. The care we provide comes from a team of participants. In addition to our medical team (doctors, nurses, home health aides), patients and caregivers receive support from our social worker, our chaplains and our massage therapist. This means that while our work is less costly than hospital visits, the services we deliver to patients are extensive and thorough.

How can you help? Spread the word. As Americans learn more about hospice, they embrace it in greater numbers. As patient numbers grow for hospices around the country, the savings to our nation’s Medicare budget also increase.

For information about Hope Hospice or hospice care in general, visit our website HopeHospiceStl.com or call our office at 314-984-9800.




Will I Die Sooner on Hospice?

In a word, the answer is “no.” Hospice care neither speeds up nor slows down the dying process. It might appear that, after aggressive hospital treatments are stopped, terminal illnesses would progress at a more rapid pace.

Various research projects have shown that patients on hospice care in many cases actually live longer than those with similar conditions receiving treatments such as chemotherapy. Factors other than purely medical ones—such as the comfort of sitting at home in one’s favorite chair—may play a role in those results.

The Boston doctor who wrote an excellent article about hospice care in The New Yorker magazine in 2010 cited an actual study of 4,493 Medicare patients on hospice. The research compared average survival times of patients on hospice versus those not on hospice care.

That research revealed that patients with pancreatic cancer live, on average, three weeks longer on hospice care. Those with lung cancer had six weeks more survival time on hospice care. Persons with congestive heart failure had, on average, three additional months of life on hospice. There was no significant difference for those with breast cancer, prostate cancer or colon cancer.

Click HERE to read the article.

Of course, there is no way to predict how a particular patient’s conditions will progress under hospice care. And every individual is different.

We sometimes read of celebrities going on hospice care and then, just a few days later, dying. This gives the wrong message that hospice care is only for those who are days away from passing. It also implies that being admitted to hospice care means a patient will die in short order.

Along with communicating that hospice care does not speed up the dying process, all hospices, including Hope Hospice, must continue telling the general public and the medical community that hospice care is not just for the very few last days of a person’s life. Most hospices frequently receive comments from family members and other survivors who say, “We wish we had called you sooner.”