The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers four levels of care, but not all hospice agencies are equipped to provide them all. Let's briefly take a look at the levels and what they mean:
- Routine home care is the lowest level of care and used for most hospice patients.
- Comfort care patients is geared for patients having symptoms that cannot be controlled via routine care. Hospice staff stays at the bedside for a minimum of eight and up to 24 hours a day to provide symptom management.
- Respite care is designed to give caregivers a break if they are burnt out or otherwise need a temporary break. A hospice agency should have a contract with a nursing facility to provide this service.
- Inpatient care patients are admitted to a nursing facility or hospital for a short time where they can receive around the clock care from registered nurses until symptoms are under control.
You should ask your hospice agency which of these levels they can perform, and and where they take place. Ideally, a hospice agency should have a contract with a nursing facility or hospital to provide inpatient care in the event a patient needs it.
For more in-depth details, read Levels of Hospice Care
It’s important to know that once you choose a hospice agency and sign onto their service, you always reserve the right to change your mind. If you're not happy with the service you're getting, research other hospice agencies in your area and find one that works for you. You are always able to transfer care to another hospice agency without negatively affecting your Medicare benefit.
In the end, you need to feel confident in the care your loved one is receiving. If you're happy with their care, nothing else really matters.
(To see all the considerations that are important when choosing a hospice, please read this article Tips for Choosing a Hospice)