Hospice is one of the more misunderstood areas of health care, since its focus is not on curing illness, injury, or disease, but on treating the patient in a way that provides the maximum amount of comfort. Because hospice is provided for patients who generally have terminal conditions beyond the capabilities of conventional medicine, there is an emphasis on pain management, symptom suppression, and attention to the emotional and spiritual well-being of both the patient and his loved ones.
Hospice is designed to enable dying patients to enjoy as much comfort as possible during their remaining days of life. It offers many patients and their families a more peaceful transition to death than most can find in a hospital environment. Because hospice care deals so closely with the end of life, however, it raises important concerns regarding the patient’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment, as well as questions about any Last Will and Testament or other estate planning documents.
The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law understands how sensitive these issues can be during the last few months, weeks, or days of a hospice patient’s life, and we can work with you to resolve these questions in a way that respects the delicate nature of the hospice stay. If you have a family member in hospice who needs to ensure that his or her affairs are in order, you can contact us for a free consultation by calling (408) 356-9200 in Campbell or (831) 476-2400 in Aptos. We’re always available to help and answer important questions like:
- How does hospice care work?
- Are there specific legal issues to deal with during a hospice stay?
- How can a California elder law attorney help patients receiving hospice care?
How Does Hospice Care Work?
First, it’s important to recognize that hospice care is routinely covered by Medicare, Medi-Cal, and many private insurance providers. There are several types of care that can be offered, in settings ranging from homes to hospitals and inpatient environments. Care levels can include:
- Routine care that can be provided in the patient’s home. This type of care is typically covered by insurance policies, and includes visits not only from nursing personnel, but home health aides, social workers, and even chaplains of your choice.
- Respite Care includes care that is designed to give regular caregivers time off to rest. Often, this type of care is used when a patient’s family caregivers need time away to recuperate from the emotional and physical stress that caregiving can present. Medicare and other insurance policies can cover the costs associated with transferring the patient to an inpatient environment for several days.
- Inpatient care includes care that is offered in hospital and other medical settings. Patients receive medical care to stabilize their conditions, with the goal of eventually returning them to their routine care settings.
- Continuous care is provided for patients who need that level of monitoring to maintain a stable condition. This care can typically be provided in homes, hospice environments, and hospitals.
A California elder law attorney can help families struggling to decide which level of care their loved ones need, as well as which options can be covered by the patient’s insurance.
Are There Specific Legal Issues to Deal with During a Hospice Stay?
Hospice care is accompanied by a host of different end of life concerns – including several legal issues. These issues involve the actions necessary to fulfill the patient’s wishes and provide for his or her loved ones after death. The two main issues that need to be addressed include:
- Determining the patient’s treatment wishes. It is important for patients to create the advance directive or living will they need to document their personal treatment preferences while they are still of sound mind. Patients who arrive at hospice to peacefully live out the rest of their lives don’t always want every type of life-sustaining medical treatment that doctors can provide. Their treatment wishes need to be put to paper to ensure that their wishes are respected.
- For almost every patient who enters hospice care, there is no exit except through death. Since hospice represents the end of life for those patients, it is more important than ever for them to ensure that they have the estate planning tools they need to document their legacy intentions. Everyone should have a Last Will and Testament. Many may need trusts or other planning tools to preserve assets from estate taxes. Inheritances need to be determined and steps taken to secure those legacy goals.
Your California elder law attorney can help you address those important concerns and secure the protection you need to ensure that all your final wishes are documented. That attorney can also help to establish the patient’s mental fitness to guard against future attempts to throw out wills and other documents due to claims that the client lacked the necessary mental capacity.
How Can a California Elder Law Attorney Help Patients Receiving Hospice Care?
At the Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law, we understand how difficult the hospice care environment and process can be, and we make every effort to approach client concerns in a manner that recognizes the sensitive nature of these circumstances. We’ll work with you to ensure that your legal concerns about important elder law matters are properly addressed in a way that provides your family with maximum protection. If you’d like to schedule your consultation with a California elder law attorney, contact us online or call (408) 356-9200 in Campbell or (831) 476-2400 in Aptos.