The Medicare rules for hospice services require certification from 2 physicians to verify that the individual is expected to live 6 months or less, if the disease runs its natural course. Usually, the 2 physicians would include the individual’s primary care physician. This is the person that you would want to consult with first. The other physician can be the medical director of the hospice agency.
It is expected that anyone who receives hospice services will no longer receive any life saving treatments, such as chemotherapy. The focus will then become the alleviation of physical, emotional, and social symptoms. Hospice can provide some valuable end-of-life services for patients and families.
The 6 month rule does not mean that if the individuals do not die in 6 months, they can no longer receive hospice. It just means that they need to be recertified by the hospice agency.
If one is not quite ready to make the decision for hospice services, it does not hurt to investigate obtaining palliative care services that focus on alleviation of symptoms experienced with diseases and their treatments. Receiving palliative care does not automatically disqualify one from continued life saving treatment.
My book, Healthcare Handbook For Senior Citizens and Their Families, provides more details about Hospice services and end-of-life care. See my website http://www.seniorhealthbook.com. Also, you can find information about the hospice regulations on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services CMS website (www.cms.gov).