Who’s Eligible for Hospice?

Most people don’t know anything about hospice care until they’re faced with their own end-of-life issues or those of a loved one. There are a number of misconceptions about what hospice is and does, who’s eligible, how a person is accepted for hospice care, and so on. The purpose of this site is to answer those questions.

The criteria for hospice eligibility is that the patient has a terminal illness or is in a terminal condition as a result of a chronic illness and has a life expectancy of less than six months. Two physicians (the hospice physician and, usually, the patient’s personal physician) must certify that the patient is no longer responding to aggressive treatment and has a life expectancy of less than six months if the disease runs its normal course.

Such a prognosis is only a prediction and doesn’t mean a person will die within six months, because everyone is different. If the patient lives longer than six months and there’s no improvement in their condition or they continue to decline, they may be recertified by a physician or nurse practitioner for additional time in hospice care. Some patients improve on hospice, occasionally to the degree that they’re healthy enough to no longer be eligible for the service and ‘graduate’ from hospice. Of course, the patient is eligible for hospice again if his or her condition begins to decline.