Hospice is a type of philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a chronically ill, terminally ill, or seriously ill patient's pain and symptoms, and attending to their emotional and spiritual needs.

Hospice can be covered by the Medicare system and other health insurance providers. It may be available, either in an inpatient facility or at the patient's home, to patients with a terminal prognosis who are medically certified (at hospice onset) to have less than six months to live.

Now is the best time to learn and ask questions about what to expect from hospice services. Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed. By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations. Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by the patient’s doctor. Often, a hospice program representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient and family or primary caregiver. Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral.  However, in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.
Hospice care is available ‘on-call’ after the administrative office has closed, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Most hospices have nurses available to respond to a call for help within minutes, if necessary. 
Yes. There are state licensure requirements that must be met by hospice programs in order for them to deliver care. In addition, hospices must comply with federal regulations in order to be approved for reimbursement under Medicare. Hospices must periodically undergo inspection to be sure they are meeting regulatory standards in order to maintain their license to operate and the certification that permits Medicare reimbursement.