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Can a Senior be Ineligible for Hospice?

by Viki Kind, End-of-Life Expert
October 18, 2013

Question: I am thinking of the possibility of hospice for my aging mother. Is there any factor that could make her ineligible for a hospice program?

Answer: Thank you for asking for information about hospice. Hospice is a wonderful benefit that everyone, whether they are insured or not, are eligible to receive for free. So it won’t be money or insurance that will keep her from being eligible.  
The only thing that will keep her from receiving hospice care is if she is still too healthy to qualify.  The hospice doctor will review her health condition and if she is sick enough to die in the next six months, then she should qualify. (Just because someone qualifies does not mean that the person will absolutely die in the next six months.  Many people live for years because of the great care they get from hospice. One woman I worked with lived from age 99 to 105 while on hospice.)  If the doctor says your mother is too healthy to be eligible right now, you can always have her re-evaluated when her health condition changes.

For some people, they will never receive hospice care, not because they don’t qualify, but because they don’t want to choose hospice. While people are receiving life-prolonging medical treatments, they are usually not eligible for hospice. (There are a few exceptions to this rule especially in pediatrics where children can have hospice and life-prolonging treatments at the same time.) 

The goal of hospice is to create the best quality of life that is possible and because of this, many people live longer and better because hospice does such a good job of managing their pain and suffering. Personally, I think everyone deserves to have the good dying experience that hospice provides.  

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Viki Kind is a clinical bioethicist, professional speaker, and hospice volunteer. Her book, The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices For Those Who Can't,” guides families and professionals through the difficult process of advocating for those who can no longer speak for themselves. She has recently launched a DVD that includes a template to create a quality-of-life statement.

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