By Kristin Rowan, Editor

The news this week has been filled with stories about former president Jimmy Carter, 99, who entered hospice care last year. His wife, Rosalynn Carter was in hospice care for only a few days before she passed away in November. Advocates and hospice providers are hoping that Carter’s length of care in hospice will help increase awareness of what hospice care really is.

Hospice care is a misunderstood service. Many people equate hospice care with dying. While it is true that patients are only eligible for hospice care if they have a life-ending illness with no hope of cure, hospice care involves a lot more than easing a patient through the end-of-life transition. Physical symptoms are eased with medicine and the patient’s emotional well-being is supported as well. Just as importantly, the family’s emotional needs are met through hospice care.

The Carter family’s high profile has shed some much needed light on hospice care in general. The vast difference in length of care between the former first lady (three days) and the former president (one year and counting) has also highlighted the degree to which hospice care can be administered.

The hope for many, in light of the public coverage of Carter’s hospice care, is a change in long-term care coverage to cover the gap between hospital care and hospice care. Medicare does not have a long-term care benefit, so patients either go without this needed care or pay for it out of pocket. Detractors argue that new taxes would have to be levied in order to fund this type of care, making the change politically difficult.

I would argue that long-term care benefits could be used to pay for step-down care instead of hospice care and would not need a separate budget. After all, isn’t that what palliative care aims to do? Home health care aids in recover and hospice care maintains quality of life during end-of-life care. Palliative care is the bridge that spans the two, when a patient is not going to recover, but isn’t ready or eligible for hospice care. Adding Medicare and Medicaid coverage for palliative would lower the overall cost of hospice care and add much-needed service for the patients that fall between the gap.

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Kristin Rowan

Kristin Rowan has been working at Healthcare at Home: The Rowan Report since 2008. She has a master’s degree in business administration and marketing and runs Girard Marketing Group, a multi-faceted boutique marketing firm specializing in event planning, sales, and marketing strategy. She has recently taken on the role of Editor of The Rowan Report and will add her voice to current Home Care topics as well as marketing tips for home care agencies. Connect with Kristin directly or

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