For many, the sentence "your loved one needs hospice care" can inspire a feeling of dread and the assumption that death must be just around the corner. But hospice care isn't only for terminal illnesses; it's designed to provide comfort and support to anyone dealing with a chronic or serious illness. Knowing what to expect from the process can go a long way toward calming your nerves and ensuring you're in the best frame of mind to provide additional care and comfort to the one you love. Read on to learn more about what you can expect when you seek hospice care for someone in your life.

How is Hospice Care Arranged?

Often, hospice care is recommended by your loved one's primary care physician as an alternative to a lengthy and potentially uncomfortable hospital stay. Hospice care is often performed in-home or in an independent facility, not a hospital; this calming and comforting environment can go a long way toward promoting peace and healing.

In general, Medicare will cover the cost of hospice care as long as any treatments the patient is seeking aren't intended to cure the underlying ailment and the patient has been deemed "terminally ill"; that is, expected to pass away within the next six months. Medicare can also cover the cost of respite care for primary caregivers, giving spouses, children, and parents a physical and mental break from the tough job of caregiving.

After hospice care has been ordered, hospice workers may visit your loved one's home to see what further arrangements should be made. This can include the delivery of a hospital bed, a lifting chair, and other assistive devices.

What Will Hospice Workers Do?

Hospice workers are compassionate, kind people who are focused on making the patient as comfortable and peaceful as possible. Too often, individuals spend their last days in loud, intrusive hospitals, missing out on the comforts and conveniences of their homes—and when further medical treatment isn't going to be provided, there's little need to be in a hospital environment.

Hospice workers will take care of the patient's basic needs, administer medication (including narcotics and opiates that can relieve pain), and work with family members to ensure that the patient is able to fulfill as many of his or her desires as possible. For example, hospice workers may be able to schedule their administration of medication around friend and family member visits so that the patient is clear-headed and coherent when entertaining guests.