Frequently Asked Questions

1. When is a decision about hospice care made and who makes it?

At any time during the course of a life-limiting illness, it’s appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice care. The decision to receive hospice care belongs to the patient. Hospice staff members are highly sensitive to patient and family concerns about moving from curative treatment to comfort care and are available to discuss any concerns about treatment or care.

2. Does a physician have to raise the topic of hospice, or can a family member?

The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other health care professionals, clergy, or friends.

3. Can a hospice patient who shows signs of recovery return to regular medical treatment?

Yes. If the patient’s condition improves, they can be discharged from hospice. If the patient later needs to return to hospice care, Medicare and most private insurance allow for this change.

4. How many family members or friends does it take to care for a patient at home?

There’s no set number. One of the first things a hospice team will do is prepare an individualized care plan that will, among other things, address the amount of caregiving that is needed by the patient. The hospice team members visit regularly and are always accessible to answer medical questions, provide support, and educate caregivers.

5. 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, as the patient declines, someone will need to be there continuously. While family and friends deliver most of the day-to-day care, a hospice volunteer can assist with errands and provide a break and time away for primary caregivers.

6. What specific assistance does hospice provide home-based patients?

Hospice patients are cared for by a team of physicians, nurses, social workers, hospice aides, chaplains, and volunteer visitors The hospice team provides medications, supplies and medical equipment to help make a patient comfortable.

7. Does hospice do anything to make death come sooner?

Hospice neither hastens nor postpones dying. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and skills during child birth, hospice provides expertise and presence during the dying process.

8 .Is caring for the patient at home the only place hospice care is offered?

No. Hospice of Santa Cruz County provides care wherever the patient calls home. This often includes nursing homes and residential care facilities.

9. How does hospice manage pain?

Hospice believes that emotional and spiritual pain are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain. Hospice nurses and doctors are knowledgeable about the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. Social workers, grief counselors, and chaplains are also available to assist family members as well as patients.

10. Is hospice affiliated with any religious organization?

No. Hospice of Santa Cruz County serves our entire community and does not require patients to adhere to any particular set of beliefs.

11. Who pays for hospice services?

Hospice coverage is provided by Medicare nationwide, Medi-Cal in California, and by most private insurance providers. Medicare covers all services and supplies for the hospice patient related to the terminal illness.

12. Do state and federal reviewers inspect and evaluate hospices?

Yes. There are state licensure requirements that must be met by hospice programs in order to deliver care. Hospices must comply with federal regulations in order to be approved for reimbursement under Medicare. Hospices must also periodically undergo inspection to be sure they are meeting regulatory standards in order to maintain their license to operate and the certification that permits Medicare reimbursement.

13. If the patient is not covered by Medicare or any other health insurance, will hospice still provide care?

The first thing hospice will do is assist families in finding out whether the patient is eligible for any coverage of which they may not be aware. Hospice of Santa Cruz County will provide care for anyone who cannot pay. This is made possible by donations from our community.

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

Hospice of Santa Cruz County provides support for caregivers and family members after the death of a loved one. Individual support and group support is available for Hospice family members or for anyone in the community who has experienced a death of someone close to them.

15. Do most Hospice patients have cancer?

We assist patients with all types of life-limiting conditions including cancer. Other conditions for which we provide end-of-life care include, but are not limited to, heart disease, lung disease, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

16. Does Hospice provide 24-hour care?

Hospice of Santa Cruz County staff is available 24 hours a day, every day, to answer your questions or concerns. However, we do not remain in the home around the clock. A caregiver (usually a family member or friend) is needed to provide support to hospice patients. The hospice care team responds to the needs of the patient and family in a timely manner through communication with the patient, the family or caregiver, and the patient’s doctor.