Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is hospice care?

A. Hospice care offers comfort and support to provide purpose and meaning during the final stages of life. Choosing hospice means securing the appropriate care to enable a patient and their loved ones to live life as fully and comfortably as possible during the time that remains. Hospice philosophy acknowledges dying as part of a natural process to be neither hastened or postponed.

Q. Who qualifies for hospice care?

A. Any individual may choose comfort care when life expectancy is limited and curative treatment options are limited or ineffective. An individual’s healthcare provider and the hospice Medical Director will determine when criteria for hospice services have been met. Hospice serves patients with serious advanced illness or health decline resulting from the normal aging process.

Q. When is hospice needed?

A. Hospice care is appropriate at any time during a life-limiting illness when the primary treatment goal is comfort rather than cure. Hospice can provide emotional, spiritual and physical support. Exploring options following a life-limiting diagnosis can ease the transition and improve quality of life.

Q. When is it time to call HospiceCare in The Berkshires?

A. The sooner information is sought, the more opportunity exists to benefit from our comprehensive range of services. Generally, when a patient’s life expectancy is less than six months, patients are eligible (under Medicare Guidelines) to receive hospice care services. Your primary care physician and the hospice care doctors will consult to determine eligibility.

Q. Who pays for hospice care?

A. Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, and most private insurances have a hospice benefit. If eligible, hospice care can pay for medications and equipment that are related to a terminal diagnosis. Our hospice staff assist patients and families in determining hospice insurance benefits, and our service is available to any eligible person regardless of ability to pay.

Q. What services are covered?

A. Our services are available to any eligible person regardless of ability to pay. Our staff will assist patients and families in determining specific hospice insurance benefits. Services typically covered include physician services, nursing care, medical equipment and supplies, medications related to the terminal diagnosis, short term respite care, home health aide, social work and bereavement, chaplain, and physical, occupational and speech therapies and dietary counseling, when necessary.

Q. What are Advance Directives?

A. Advance directives are legal documents that allow a person to make their own decisions or wishes about their medical care known ahead of time in the event they should ever become unable to communicate. These written instructions, often called a Living Will, can include treatment preferences for when you enter the end stage of your life.

In Massachusetts, you have the right to choose a Health Care Proxy. This individual is someone you trust to make decisions for your medical care if you are unable to communicate or make these decisions yourself. It is important to plan ahead and communicate your preferences to your loved ones and your physician. Conversations before a crisis can help guide family members who may someday be making difficult decisions about the kind of health care you would want.

Q. Do I need a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order to be on hospice?

A. A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is not required at the time of admission to hospice care. As end of life approaches, individuals may decide they no longer want any form of life prolonging procedures such as CPR and may choose to put certain directives in place. HospiceCare in The Berkshires works with individuals, their family and physician to ensure their wishes are honored.

Q. Where is hospice care provided?

A. HospiceCare in The Berkshires can provide services wherever a person with life-limiting illness is living. Our care is available wherever you call home, whether in a private residence, assisted living community, nursing home, long-term care facility, or hospital. In clinical settings, our hospice team works closely with staff and family to coordinate physical, emotional and spiritual care. Hospice nursing home services follow guidelines established by Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Q. Can a hospice patient continue to treat with their own doctor?

A. Absolutely. Your physician will remain fully involved in all aspects of your care. Decisions about all of your medical needs, including pain and symptom management, are directed by your primary care physician in consultation with the hospice team.

Q. Will there be any special equipment or changes made in my home when hospice begins?

A. The HospiceCare in The Berkshires team will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment (for example, shower chair, walker, or specialized mattress), and arrange to have these items delivered to your residence. It is always your decision whether to accept or decline any medical equipment recommended by the hospice team.

Q. Is all hospice the same?

A. HospiceCare in The Berkshires offers a full complement of hospice services along with palliative care consultations, pediatric palliative care, and extensive bereavement services. When choosing a hospice provider, consider the comprehensive nature of services offered, expertise and training of the staff, and availability of additional supportive care for the family such as volunteer and bereavement staff. HCIB professionals and staff live in the communities served and many have been providing care within the community for decades.

Q. When someone chooses hospice, are they “giving up”?

A. HospiceCare in The Berkshires affirms life and believes hope and meaning can be found when quality of life becomes the focus of care. By choosing hospice, individuals are choosing quality of life. Choosing hospice care enables a person to regain a sense of control in their life and offers relief from many distressing physical, emotional and spiritual concerns. The hospice team will support you and your caregivers in living each day to its fullest while minimizing pain and symptoms.

Q. What is palliative care?

A. Palliative care addresses pain and symptoms associated with a chronic medical condition.

Q. What is pediatric palliative care?

A. Pediatric palliative care is for children under the age of 19 who have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Services strengthen families through emotional, physical, spiritual, and social support. Care may include complementary health services such as expressive arts and other physician-approved therapies.

Q. What is the difference between adult palliative care and pediatric palliative care?

A. Adult palliative care targets symptom management and care planning, while pediatric palliative care offers a broad range of services to assist children with life-limiting illness and their families.

Q. Who is eligible for pediatric palliative care?

A. Children under the age of 19 living in Massachusetts and diagnosed with a serious medical condition may be eligible for pediatric palliative care. See our eligibility page for complete eligibility requirements.

Q. Can my child receive palliative care while going through treatment?

A. Yes, children in the program can continue to receive treatment toward a cure.

Q. Where is pediatric palliative care provided?

A. Pediatric palliative care is most often provided in the home, but is offered wherever the patient is currently living.

Q. What is the Pediatric Palliative Care Network?

A. Members of the Pediatric Palliative Care Network are licensed providers specializing in pediatric palliative care in Massachusetts and contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to provide pediatric palliative care services. HCIB is a proud member of the Pediatric Palliative Care Network.

Q. Who provides pediatric palliative care?

A. The pediatric palliative care team includes nurses, social workers, counselors, chaplains and trained volunteers.

Q. What is the cost of pediatric palliative care?

A. There is no cost to patients and their families. If not otherwise covered by insurance, pediatric palliative care is a state-funded program through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and is also supported by private donations.

Q. How do we access pediatric palliative care?

A. Referral can be made by healthcare professionals, social service agencies or family caregivers.

Q. Can my child continue seeing our primary care doctor?

A. Yes, continuing the existing primary care relationship is important for your child’s health and well-being. The care team will work with the primary care doctor and other providers to coordinate care.

Have more questions? Contact us to learn more about compassionate hospice care in Berkshire County.