It is with a heavy heart that Showbiz 411 broke the news that Aretha Franklin is in hospice care - but what is hospice care, and how does Medicare cover it?
The 76-year-old Queen of Soul has battled cancer since 2010. Since it was announced that she was ‘gravely ill’ yesterday morning, she has been surrounded by love and warmth as her family and friends gather to say their last goodbyes at her home in Detroit.
Franklin started out singing gospel music at her local church as a teenager, before signing her first major record deal with just 18 years old.
Roger Friedman of Showbizz411 says: “She will be so missed as a mother, sister, friend, cousin. But her legacy is larger than life.”
In her 60-year career she won 18 Grammy awards, performed at the inauguration of three presidents, sang at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial service, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the highest accolade a US civilian can be awarded.
What is hospice care?
Hospice care focuses on making the patient as comfortable as possible towards the end of their life. Hospice care can be carried out at the person’s home, at a hospital, or nursing home.
A team of professionals including doctors, nurses, caregivers, spiritual advisors, and volunteers work together to help the patient as much as possible as they prepare to pass on.
Hospice care is often confused with palliative care, but palliative care focuses more on managing the patient’s symptoms. Patients availing of hospice care will often be receiving palliative care as well to limit the side-effects of their terminal illness.
Cross Roads Hospice sums up the difference as: “Someone can receive palliative care at any stage of an illness, whereas hospice care is only appropriate at an end-of-life stage.”
Medicare & hospice stays
When a patient begins availing of hospice care, often it is after doctors have exhausted all avenues of treatment.
You can avail of hospice care if you have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and you are expected to live for 6 months or less, accept palliative care instead of treatment, and you sign a statement choosing hospice care over your other Medicare-covered treatments.
Here’s what Medicare will cover:
- Doctor and nursing services, hospice aide and homemaker services.
- Medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers; and medical supplies such as bandages.
- Physical therapy services, occupational therapy services, speech-language pathology services, and social work services.
- Dietary counseling.
- Grief and loss counseling for the patient and their family.
- Short-term inpatient care, and short term respite care.
- Other Medicare-covered services that relate to your terminal illness as recommended by your hospice team.
There are certain things that Medicare won’t cover, although if you organize these services through your hospice team before availing of them, you may not have to pay as much.
- Treatment that attempts to cure the patient’s illness.
- Room and board if you move into an inpatient facility (unless your hospice team determines that you need short-term respite care or inpatient care, although you may need to pay a 5% of the Medicare-approved amount for respite care). This also does not cover your home or nursing homes.
- Unless arranged by your hospice team, Medicare won’t cover hospital outpatient/inpatient services or ambulance transportation.