top of page
Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya

What is Hospice Care?

Senior Portrait

What is Hospice Care?

Gardening Together

Hospice is a type of care that provides comfort, support, and dignity to people who are nearing the end of their lives. When your doctor concludes that you or a loved one has six months or less to live, and has opted to forego curative therapies, hospice then becomes an option. 

Our thorough hospice program looks after the patient and their family as a whole. With the help of a team of specialists, including a board-certified physician, registered nurse, social worker, spiritual support counselor, licensed home health aide, and volunteer, Hummingbird Hospice focuses on physical, emotional, and spiritual quality of life. The care is given to you at home, at a nursing home, assisted living facility, or in an inpatient care center.

Image by National Cancer Institute

What is the Difference Between

Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

While the goal of both hospice and palliative care is relief from pain and symptoms, the prognosis of care tends to be different. Hospice is comfort care without curative intent; the patient no longer has curative options or has chosen not to pursue treatment because the side effects outweigh the benefits. Palliative care is comfort care with or without curative intent.

Hospice care is similar to palliative care, but there are important differences. Because more than 90 percent of hospice care is paid for through the Medicare hospice benefit, hospice patients must meet Medicare’s eligibility requirements; palliative care patients do not have to meet the same requirements.

What are the Four Hospice Care Levels?

To accommodate the diverse requirements of patients and their families, hospice offers four levels of care, as defined by Medicare. Routine home care, continuous home care, general inpatient care, and respite care are the four stages of hospice care.

Image by Matej Klíč
Image by Andreas Forsberg
Image by Cris DiNoto
Image by Simon Harmer
Levels of Care

Hummingbird Hospice is a Medicare-certified hospice provider, which means we must provide four different levels of hospice care. Anyone who is qualified for Medicare can receive one of the four levels of hospice care.

Homecare on a Regular Basis

Routine home care is the most basic level of hospice care that may be offered in your home, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Hospice caregivers and your physician work together to provide comfort at the end of life in this level of care. The focus of at home comfort care is on living, with compassionate support for the patient and the family, and includes expert management of symptoms and pain. Oftentimes, patients or families wait too long to gain the full benefits of at home care and hospice. Patients that choose hospice at home services typically live longer than those that do not, with improved quality of life.

Hummingbird Hospice includes a team of highly trained professionals, providing the following comforting at home care services:

  • Expert medical care –Our hand-picked team of compassionate professionals includes Certified Hospice and Palliative Care physicians, skilled Registered Nurses (RN), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), trained Home Health Aides (HHA), experienced case managers, social workers, volunteers, and chaplains.

  • Customized care plan – Our expert care team works together with the patient and family to create a personalized care plan which will meet the needs, and ensure comfort and dignity, to those managed under our care.

  • Durable medical equipment – Medical equipment needs that improve comfort and safety, such as a walker, wheelchair, commode, oxygen, and hospital bed will be assessed and provided.

  • Medication - medication will be supplied to for pain and symptom management.

  • Emergency access – our care team is available 24/7, our afterhours team is available for all emergencies and concerns.

  • Assistance with activities of daily living and companionship – it is the little things that make a difference from a compassionate staff that cares about every patient and family.

  • Bereavement support – support for family and loved ones for a period of up to 13 months following hospice care.


Care at Home on a Continuous Basis

There are times when routine home hospice care requires an increase in the medical care that is required to manage physical symptoms. Continuous Care may be required to temporarily control severe pain and symptoms, with the goal being that a patient can remain in their home and familiar surroundings during such crisis. If your loved one is experiencing severe symptoms such as unrelieved pain or shortness of breath, continuous home care is an option.


Hummingbird Hospice provides Continuous Care for patients who are in need of a nurse to remain at the bedside to help manage uncontrolled symptoms. This care includes nursing care for a short period of time while plan of care and medications are being adjusted to effectively manage pain and symptoms. The goal is to achieve comfort as soon as possible and return to a routine level of home care with a new plan of care. During a medical emergency, however, your hospice physician or nurse may determine that general inpatient care is the best alternative to meet your loved one’s requirements.


Inpatient Care in General

Severe pain or other symptoms may necessitate a higher degree of care, which is more successfully delivered during a brief stay in a hospice facility for General Inpatient Care. If your loved one’s demands become more complex, the hospice staff may propose moving your loved one to a partnered inpatient level of care facility, where medical professionals are available 24/7 to provide more intensive nursing care. Patients benefit from experienced providers dedicated to listening to patient and family requests, serving as an advocate for the patient when friends and family are unable to visit. The objective of inpatient hospice care is to manage severe pain and symptoms so that your loved one can, if at all possible, return home to their family and familiar surroundings and start normal hospice care again.


Hummingbird Hospice provides General Inpatient Care to patients in a facility, such as an assisted living facility, private care home, or long-term care facility.  Patients currently residing in these settings, or their own home may begin to receive hospice care once determined eligible by their primary care physician and our hospice medical director.  Inpatient care may be required if the patient’s needs change, and they require more intensive nursing intervention.

Indications that a patient may require General Inpatient Care may include:

  • Frequent medication adjustment to control symptoms

  • Uncontrollable seizure, restlessness, or agitation

  • Sudden deterioration of condition requiring more intensive care

  • Stabilization of uncontrollable pain, nausea, or vomiting

  • Chronic or acute symptom management that cannot be provided at home

  • The need for intravenous medications with close monitoring for symptom relief

  • Complex wound care requiring frequent dressing changes that cannot be managed at home

  • Minor procedures to aid patient comfort such as draining fluid or inserting a drain tube

When patients transfer to an inpatient facility, they may face emotional hardships, along with family members. Hummingbird Hospice helps families by bringing comfort, peace, and dignity to those with a life-limiting illness. We are committed to making a difference with quality of life.


Respite Care

Respite care refers to a period of time to rest. This is another level of short-term hospice care to relieve family members or primary caregivers. The respite level of hospice care is delivered on an as-needed basis and provides unpaid family caregivers with a scheduled, short-term break from the responsibilities of aiding a loved one with an advanced disease. Caregivers can become overwhelmed when caring for a loved one with a terminal illness and forgo their own personal wellness. Families and caregivers can take advantage of skilled hospice care with Medicare covering up to 5 consecutive days on an occasional basis. Respite care can be provided in the home, or an inpatient facility. If your loved one’s plan of care requires 24-hour care, it can only be offered at a Medicare-certified inpatient hospice facility, hospital, or skilled nursing facility with the ability to provide round-the-clock nursing care. Please discuss the respite level of care with our Patient Care Coordinator or your Registered Nurse.

How do you know what level of hospice care is right for you?

Your physician or specialist, a hospice physician or nurse visiting you, or a loved one in the home, hospital, or assisted living/nursing home, will decide the right degree of end-of-life care. A Hummingbird nurse will do an evaluation to determine the appropriate degree of hospice care for you. Please contact your healthcare provider or a hospice nurse if you have any inquiries.

If you would like to know more on the levels of hospice care, call our office at (210) 908-9774 for more insight.


Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Hospice Care Definition

The definition of hospice care is compassionate comfort care (as opposed to curative care) for people facing a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less, based on their physician’s estimate if the disease runs its course as expected.


Palliative Care Definition

The definition of palliative care is compassionate comfort care that provides relief from the symptoms and physical and mental stress of a serious or life-limiting illness. Palliative care can be pursued at diagnosis, during curative treatment and follow-up, and at the end of life.


Hospice vs. Palliative Care Eligibility

Hospice eligibility requires that two physicians certify that the patient has less than six months to live if the disease follows its usual course. Palliative care is begun at the discretion of the physician and patient at any time, at any stage of illness, terminal or not.

Hospice and Palliative Care Teams

Interdisciplinary teams deliver both hospice and palliative care. They address physical, emotional and spiritual pain, including such common worries as loss of independence, the well-being of the family and feeling like a burden.


Paying for Hospice vs. Palliative Care

Hospice care costs are paid 100 percent by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance; *hospice is the only Medicare benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/7 access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits, grief support following a death and other services deemed appropriate by the hospice agency. By comparison, palliative care costs—from office visits to prescription charges—can vary.

Where Do I Receive Hospice or Palliative Care?

Hospice care is delivered at home or in home-like hospice residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, veterans' facilities, hospitals and other facilities. Palliative care teams typically work in a hospital.


Resourced: VITAS Healthcare Hospice vs Palliative 2022

bottom of page