As we observe Older Americans Month, we want to address some of the issues that come with aging, specifically access to end-of-life care. Concerns over health care and how to pay for it are paramount for baby boomers entering their 60s and near retirement age. Many of these baby boomers are providing care for their aging parents just as they are facing their own health care issues.
In 2018, West Virginia ranked third in the United States with the highest population over 65 years of age.
- 17.78% or 320,040 people are over the age of 65 in WV with another 31,760 people in the group 85 + years old, who are the ‘oldest of the old.’
This represents a lot of our friends and neighbors who will need advanced illness care as they near their end-of-life. Read on to learn more about access to end-of-life care, who pays for it and how we can help.
WHO PAYS FOR HOSPICE?
Families making end-of-life care decisions for their loved ones need compassion and support, not financial worries. For 37 years, the Medicare Hospice Benefit has been in place to cover the cost to access end-of-life care. This has brought great relief to families during one of life’s most difficult times.
Hospice is paid for through the Medicare Hospice Benefit, Medicaid Hospice Benefit and most private insurers. In addition, most private health plans and Medicaid in 49 States and the District of Columbia cover hospice services. If a person does not have coverage through Medicare, Medicaid or a private insurance company, WV Caring will work with the person and their family to ensure that needed services are provided regardless of their ability to pay for care.
For most people 65 years old or older have paid into Medicare for most of their life and they have earned this Medicare benefit; so, it is there, already paid for them to access it at any time.
This Medicare hospice benefit covers virtually all aspects of hospice care with little out-of-pocket expense to the patient or family. As a result, the financial burdens often associated with caring for a terminally ill patient are lifted.
If your loved one is 65 years or older, hospice care can be paid for with no out-of-pocket expenses for the patient under the Hospice Medicare Benefit Part A. The Hospice Medicare Benefit A covers care for the terminally ill in a home setting and includes:
- Nurses, physicians, social workers, clinical nursing aides, chaplains and volunteers to provide care
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Grief and loss counseling
Medicare and Medicaid cover these services related to their hospice benefit and pays nearly all of their costs including:
- Doctor services
- Nursing care
- Medical equipment (wheelchairs or walkers)
- Medical supplies (bandages and catheters)
- Drugs for symptom control and pain relief
- Short-term care in the hospital, including respite and inpatient for pain and symptom management
- Home health aide and homemaker services
- Physical, occupational and speech therapies, if needed
- Social work services
- Dietary counseling
- Grief support
WHY IS HOSPICE IMPORTANT? WHY SHOULD HOSPICE BE CONSIDERED AN OPTION?
Hospice involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care; pain management and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. Hospice also offers support to the loved ones of the patient; this brings an added level of relief to the dying person, knowing their loved ones are being cared for as well.
Hospice is special because it concentrates on care, not cure. It enables individuals with a terminal illness to make decisions about how and where they want to spend the rest of their lives and to spend valuable time with their family for as long as possible.
Hospice can be provided at your loved one’s home, assisted living facility, nursing home…wherever they call home…24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“It was very important for my mom to be at home, that’s where she wanted to be,” Wetsch said. “West Virginia Caring stepped right in and immediately provided us with everything we needed. When I would have to call at night, they were immediately on the phone with a nurse.”
“Knowing that I could call at any time, it was a secure feeling and some piece of mind that we knew that someone would call or come at any time, day or night,” Wetsch continued. “My mom always looked forward to the nurses, and the aides, anyone coming from West Virginia Caring, and they always brightened her day. They would talk to her, and laugh, and joke.”
HOW DO I START THE END-OF-LIFE CARE CONVERSATION?
Although starting the end-of-life care conversation may be difficult, it is best for your loved one to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance or right after diagnosis, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
Starting the end-of-life care conversation can be as simple as saying, “Even though you were just diagnosed with ______, and you are okay right now, I am worried about _____ and want to be prepared in case of an event.”
During this talk, you can discuss:
- Any concerns your loved one has.
- Important activities that you loved one wants at the end of their life.
- Treatment options that your loved one wants at the end of their life.
- How involved do they want their healthcare provider to be?
- How long would they want to receive medical care?
- How involved do they want their loved ones to be?
- Who is paying for end-of-life care services like hospice?
HOW CAN WV CARING HELP YOU ACCESS END-OF-LIFE CARE?
WV Caring, your local non-profit hospice has made a promise to North Central West Virginia, to care for all who seek our expertise for end-of-life care. Our care is provided to anyone at any age who needs our specialized end-of-life-care.
We can assist you in understanding all aspects of hospice and how to access end-of-life care. If you’d like more information, call our office to speak with someone today: 1-866-656-9790 or visit us at our website.