When to Consider Hospice

Last Updated: January 1, 2022

Written by the Open Caregiving Team. Editorial review by Joyce O. Murphy RN, MSN.

Who is best suited for hospice?

To be eligible for hospice care, a person is believed to have 6 months or less to live. This is based on the illness continuing on its expected course. A hospice physician and your loved one’s primary care physician must verify that this is the case.

Hospice care is for people who decide to no longer try to cure their illness or no longer want to undergo painful treatment. They choose to focus on quality of life and emotional support. They know they are likely to live 6 months or less after stopping treatments that prolong life.

When is the right time to ask about hospice?

This can be a sensitive topic and everyone’s situation is different. When your loved one’s treatment is not working and there are no other treatment options, it is time to talk about hospice. You can bring up the option of hospice with your loved one and their doctor.

It is natural for families and doctors to resist discussing hospice until the last weeks of life. More families are being encouraged to discuss hospice care earlier rather than later. This is due to recent studies that show that hospice care leads to a more comfortable, supportive, and extended end-of-life.

Can someone leave hospice care?

Yes, if an individual’s condition improves and their life expectancy is better, they can be discharged from hospice care. They can then re-enter hospice if their condition worsens. If an individual is in hospice care for over 6 months, they must be re-certified as eligible. This is done by a hospice physician or a nurse practitioner based on state rules.

Other reasons an individual can be leave hospice care include:

  • If the patient decides to revoke the hospice benefit
  • If the patient wants to transfer to another hospice
  • If the patient moves out of the hospice’s service area
  • If the patient meets their hospice provider’s policy regarding discharge for cause.

What does it mean to revoke the hospice election?

To revoke the hospice election means that the patient chooses to no longer receive Medicare approved hospice care. Only the beneficiary can revoke the hospice election.  A hospice provider does not have the ability to revoke the patient’s election or force them to revoke their election of Medicare approved hospice.

Can someone transfer hospices?

Yes, a patient is allowed to switch to a new hospice once per each 6 month election period.

In order to transfer to a new hospice provider, the patient must submit a signed statement to the hospice they have received care from and the new hospice they are transferring to that lists out:

  • The name of their previous hospice provider
  • The name of the new hospice provider
  • The date the change is effective


Related Topics To Learn About

What Is Hospice

Hospice care allows people with terminal illnesses and their families to live as comfortably as possible during the last stages of life.

How to Have End-of-Life Conversations

Learn why end-of-life conversations matter. You’ll gain insights on how to proceed, whom to include, and steps for planning your loved one’s remaining time.

How to Prepare for Hospice

Learn about changes you may need to make to your home, what to expect from the hospice team, and how you can be there for your loved one.

Hospice House

A hospice house is a peaceful, home-like setting for people who are terminally ill and their loved ones.