Hospice Care at Penn Highlands Healthcare

Hospice Care

Hospice home care is a unique kind of care that offers comfort and support to a person who is at the end of life and is not seeking medical treatment to extend life. Rather than treating the person’s illness in hopes of recovery, hospice care provides comfort, dignity, and quality to a person in their last six months of life. Hospice care allows your loved one to remain at home while managing physical and emotional symptoms and providing support to family and caregivers.

To learn more, call our compassionate home care team at 800-841-9397.


The Beauty of Hospice

Hospice care is often described by families as a way to make a person’s end-of-life beautiful, dignified, and peaceful. The fundamental principle of hospice is that each of us has the right to live each day pain free and with dignity. People of any age with a life expectancy of six months or less and who have chosen treatment based on comfort instead of a cure are eligible for hospice care.

Despite a long history, hospice care is sometimes misunderstood. Hospice care does not hasten nor delay death. Instead, it is care that provides respite to a patient and their loved ones so that they may spend the final months in meaningful connection.

Personal Hospice Home Care Services

Our Medicare-certified hospice care team provides care to patients in their own homes, skilled nursing facilities, and nursing home residences. We work closely with the patient’s physician to design a plan to assess, monitor, and manage symptoms to provide the highest quality of life in a patient’s final months, weeks, and days. Hospice professionals support loved ones and caregivers by teaching them what to expect throughout the end-of-life journey, the best way to provide care, and how to care for themselves during this time. Often, the most beneficial thing hospice nurses bring is reassurance to family members that they are caring for their loved one correctly and that their loved one is not in pain.

Our compassionate and professional team are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Each patient and their family are provided with the services they need, which may include:

  • Medications to manage pain, improve comfort and maintain quality of life
  • Emotional support and, if desired, professional counseling to help patients and family members process emotions and resolve issues to find peace and closure
  • Spiritual resources that honor the patient’s traditions and beliefs and guide the patient and family through the last stages of life
  • Assistance with identifying resources to help with financial, food, transportation and other social support needs
  • Support and guidance in managing the practical details of caring for a dying loved one

Hospice Criteria

A patient doesn’t have to be elderly, have cancer, or be bed bound or critically ill to use hospice home care services. Patients of any age need to meet only two criteria to be eligible for hospice care:

  • A physician must certify that the patient is terminally ill.
  • If the illness runs its normal course, life expectancy is six months or less.

Hospice Home Care Team

The Penn Highlands Hospice Care team is made up of many types of medical and support service professionals as well as dedicated volunteers. All members of our team are professionally trained in the care and support of patients during the end-of-life period. Most importantly, our hospice care professionals are loving, compassionate and committed to helping their patients and families experience the highest quality of life possible.

The hospice team includes:

  • Physicians
  • A hospice nurse who is available on-call 24 hours a day to help family members and others manage symptoms at home
  • Physical, speech and occupational therapists who provide help with movement and safety, swallowing and speech
  • Hospice aides to assist with personal care and comfort measures
  • Social workers who help with financial concerns and identifying resources.
  • A pastoral care team including chaplains who can help with spiritual well-being.
  • Bereavement counselors who help the family prepare for and cope with the death of their loved one
  • Volunteers who visit patients to provide assistance, companionship, and respite for caregivers

To learn more about Penn Highlands Hospice services, please call 1-800-841-9397.


How long is hospice home care typically provided?

Hospice care can be started as soon as a person is determined to have six months or less to live. Hospice services can be stopped and restarted at any time. Sometimes, hospice care can help a patient feel well enough to stop for a period of time and then choose to resume it. If a patient’s medical needs become unmanageable at home, they may be admitted to the hospital or a nursing home for care.

What are the benefits of starting hospice care early?

Many people think hospice care can only be provided in the final days of a person’s life. In fact, a person can receive hospice care once their doctor has certified that they have six months or less to live. Many families who have used hospice say later that they wish they had elected to use it earlier.

The main benefit of electing hospice care early is to provide a comfort care plan, including pain management, which helps patients have a better quality of life. Hospice care does not hasten or delay death. Instead, it can help a person get the most out of their final months. Patients may use this time to check items off a life-long bucket list, spend time with family members and friends, and prepare advance directives and outline wishes for their memorials.

How much does hospice care at home cost?

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans have a hospice benefit that covers nearly all of the costs of care and services, including visits, medications, supplies, and equipment related to the diagnosis. Penn Highlands Hospice will verify your insurance coverage. Some hospice-related items may not be paid for through Medicare and insurance.

What is hospice care vs. palliative care?

The primary difference between hospice care vs. palliative care is whether the patient is continuing to receive medical care to treat their underlying health condition in hopes of getting better or living longer. Hospice care provides comfort care for people who have chosen to no longer treat their medical condition, while palliative care provides support for patients with chronic or critical illness who are continuing curative treatments.

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