By Dr. Peter Kadile

I have been the Medical Director for a local hospice company, Serenity Hospice for the past 5 years. I have found my experience as a hospice physician to be very rewarding and enlightening.

While most people understand that hospice is meant for the dying patient, not many actually understand what hospice involves.  Hospice is a comprehensive program of care provided to patients and their families who face a life threatening or terminal illness. Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide support and comfort.  Hospice emphasizes palliative (pain relief, comfort care), rather than curative treatment and quality of life rather than quantity of life. The patient and family are both included in the comprehensive care plan which includes medical, emotional, spiritual and practical support based on the patient’s condition, wishes and family needs.

A common misconception about hospice is that once a patient is under hospice care, hospice will “speed up” or hasten a patient’s death. That is far from the truth, since hospice affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. Hospice neither hastens or postpones death. Each hospice patient is unique and the goal of the hospice team is to be sensitive and responsive to the special requirements of each patient and their families.

Who qualifies for hospice?  Hospice care is meant for patients with a terminal illness or life expectancy of generally six months or less. The patients will have a poor prognosis of survival if nature is allowed to take its course. Although most hospice patients are cancer patients, hospices accept anyone regardless of age or type of illness.

Where do hospice patients go? While there are some in patient hospice facilities, a majority of hospice patients are cared for in their own home, nursing homes, assisted living residences or board and care facilities. The hospice care team of doctors, nurses, health aides, social workers and spiritual counselors will make visits to the patients to assess and care for them.

Is hospice covered by insurance? Hospice coverage is widely available in the United States. It is provided by Medicare nationwide, in the majority of states with Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) and by most private insurance companies. Hospices will assist families in finding out whether a patient is eligible for any coverage.

I believe hospice is a care system that is essential for the dying patient and for the family involved. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call Serenity Hospice at 760-325-8718. Serenity Hospice is located at 777 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 301, Palm Springs, CA 92262.