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Frequently Asked Questions

The following frequently asked questions address common inquiries about hospice care. Please contact us for more information.

Hospice care is for people with a life-limiting illness who want comfort care rather than curative treatment. A physician must certify that the person’s life expectancy is six months or less, but that time frame is flexible. Services can be extended beyond six months. Some people go on and off hospice care as their conditions change. Some people “graduate” from hospice because they get better.

It is time to consider hospice care when one or more of these circumstances apply: loss of function or physical decline; increase in hospitalizations; dependence in most activities of daily living; multiple diseases or conditions; increase in emergency room visits, and continuing weight loss.

In addition, each disease has its own criteria indicating hospice eligibility. For example, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal illness that can run its course over a decade. Hospice eligibility occurs when the person with dementia exhibits one or more of the following: unable to walk without assistance, incontinence, speech limited to a few words, difficulty swallowing or eating, and continuing weight loss.

Anyone can contact Hospice of the Valley for help to decide whether hospice care is appropriate. Click here to contact us.   

We provide services to those who:

  • Have a life-limiting illness, as confirmed by a physician.
  • Agree that hospice care is appropriate. 
  • Reside in or near Maricopa County or Pinal County (including winter visitors).

Hospice care is an established part of the healthcare system. Services are covered by Medicare, most insurance plans, and some AHCCCS plans (the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which pays for health care for low-income people). Hospice of the Valley, a not-for-profit agency, provides the same high quality of care to everyone regardless of insurance or financial means.

Those who elect to use the Medicare Hospice Benefit for their serious illness choose “the hospice plan of care,” which means they are no longer seeking aggressive treatments to cure their illness. However, Hospice of the Valley will pay for many valuable treatments that provide comfort and care, including radiation therapy, limited chemotherapy, intravenous fluids and antibiotics, intravenous or stomach tube feedings, and specialized pain management technologies.   

If the patient has chosen the Medicare Hospice Benefit, and then has an illness that is not related to the “terminal” diagnosis, traditional Medicare will pay for that treatment. For example, if a patient with lung cancer falls and breaks his hip, he will get surgery for the fractured hip through traditional Medicare. If a patient on hospice chooses aggressive treatment such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or brain surgery, they are free to sign off their Medicare Hospice Benefit and return to their traditional Medicare insurance while pursuing a cure.

The Hospice Medicare Benefit covers all services related to the terminal diagnosis: medical and nursing care, social services and counseling, chaplain services, certified nursing assistants for personal care in the home, medications delivered to the home, medical equipment and supplies, and care in specialized inpatient hospice homes for acute symptom management.  If the patient is taking medications for an unrelated diagnosis (for example, if the patient is on hospice for lung disease but also has an unrelated thyroid condition), the patient and/or their usual insurance will pay for those medications.

The Hospice Medicare Benefit covers room, board, and all care in a hospice palliative care unit or inpatient hospice home – a short-stay facility staffed by Hospice of the Valley for patients with acute symptoms such as pain, nausea or shortness of breath. The Hospice Medicare Benefit does not cover room and board in a group home, assisted living facility, or nursing home under most circumstances, except for brief nursing home stays of a few days for acute symptom management.  

For more information, view the U.S. Government Web site: www.medicare.gov or call the Medicare Customer Representative: 1.800.633.4227.

The patient and family should feel free to discuss hospice care at any time with their physician, other healthcare professionals, clergy and friends. If your physician is not familiar with hospice, invite him or her to call us at 602.530.6900. Or ask us to contact your physician.

A phone call to Hospice of the Valley -- 602.530.6900 -- is all that is needed to begin the admission process. The agency will contact the patient’s physician for confirmation that hospice care is appropriate at this time.

Three factors make Hospice of the Valley unique. We offer the highest quality care customized to individual patients and programs for specific diseases. Our staff is nationally known for its expertise. We are open 24/7 -- with staff members who are on duty, not on call. For more information, click here.

Hospice of the Valley will assess your needs, recommend any necessary equipment and help make arrangements to obtain it. Equipment such as wheelchairs, oxygen and hospital beds are covered by the Medicare hospice benefit and insurance plans.

Hospice services are covered by Medicare, most insurance plans and some AHCCCS plans (Arizona's healthcare plan for the poor). Because Hospice of the Valley is not-for-profit, no one is ever denied care because of financial need.

Hospice is a philosophy of care that focuses on maintaining the dignity and comfort of the patient and supporting the family. Most Hospice of the Valley patients are served in their own homes. Some are cared for in group homes, assisted living or skilled nursing facilities. Hospice inpatient units also are available for patients whose symptoms can't be managed at home.

Certainly. If the patient's condition improves, the patient can be discharged from hospice and return to getting regular treatment. If a discharged patient elects to return later to hospice care, that's also ok. Medicare allows people to go on and off hospice as needed.

Hospice of the Valley does nothing to speed up or slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and midwives lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the natural dying process.

Hospice of the Valley nurses and doctors are experts on the latest medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. They are often joined by specialists in music therapy, massage, nutrition counseling and other therapies. Hospice of the Valley believes that emotional and spiritual pain is just as real and in need of attention as physical pain. Counselors, including chaplains, are available to assist family members as well as patients. With a combination of medications, counseling and therapies, most patients can attain an acceptable level of comfort.

Hospice of the Valley functions as an extension of, not in place of, the patient’s attending physician. The agency also has medical directors available Valleywide to help patients who have no physician or need physician home visits.

It is appropriate to discuss all care options, including hospice, at any time during a life-limiting illness. The decision belongs to the patient. Hospice of the Valley staff members are available to help with the discussion. View "When is it Time."

Hospice of the Valley provides continuing contact and support for family and friends for at least a year following the death of a loved one. Grief support groups are offered to anyone in the community who has experienced the death of a family member, a friend or a loved one.