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What is hospice care?

Hospice care is a specialized type of palliative care for individuals with a terminal illness who are no longer receiving potentially curative treatments or life-prolonging interventions. It is a system of care to ensure a better quality of life while someone continues to live until they die.

There are two main criteria to receive hospice care: a life expectancy of 6 months or fewer, if the illness runs its typical course; and that the patient is no longer receiving treatments primarily intended to cure the disease or prolong life.

With regards to life expectancy: it can be hard to predict the course of someone’s illness and how long they will live. Some people end up living longer, and some end up living for a shorter period. This 6-month criteria comes from Medicare, which governs payment for hospices. There is one exception – in New York, patients enrolled in Medicaid may qualify for hospice if they have 12 months or fewer (but please confirm eligibility with the relevant hospice program).

With regards to cessation of potentially curative or life-prolonging interventions, a patient may reach the point where they may have exhausted all options, or where they no longer want to pursue treatments primarily intended to cure or prolong life. You cannot receive hospice care if you are receiving or plan to receive these treatments. For children, hospices make an exception – children can still try potentially curative treatments while receiving hospice care.

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