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Frequently Asked Questions



What is Hospice?

Hospice is an interdisciplinary model of care that provides support and care for persons in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live fully and as comfortably as possible.  Hospice recognizes dying as part of the normal process of living and focuses on maintaining the quality of remaining life.  Hospice exists in the hope and belief that through appropriate care, and the promotion of a caring community sensitive to their needs, patients and their families may be free to attain a degree of mental and spiritual preparation for death that is satisfactory to them.

Who can receive Hospice care?

Hospice care is available to any person who has a life limiting illness if:
•    The patient’s physician feels that he has six months or less to live if the illness runs its normal course.
•    The patient, family and physician are no longer seeking a cure with aggressive medical treatments. 
•    The patient and family are informed about hospice services and consent in writing to hospice care.  Hospice tries to assure that patients and families understand hospice philosophy and approach to care and are freely choosing it.  

How does someone become a Hospice patient?

Anyone can make a referral to UNC Hospice by calling (919) 542-5545.  Most referrals are made by health care providers when curative treatment is no longer effective,  but anyone can make a referral—clergy, neighbors, family members, or patients themselves.  Team members are available to talk with families and health care providers to see if hospice is appropriate for the patient.

When should we consider hospice services?
Hospice care can be provided when a cure is no longer possible and it is believed a patient has six months or less to live. We do not want to enroll patients while there is still a chance of a cure or the patient wants to pursue aggressive medical treatments.  Unfortunately, many people enter the program too late to fully benefit from the many services available to them and their families. People often tell us: "We wish we’d entered the hospice program sooner."

Where is hospice care provided?

UNC Hospice provides care to patients in Chatham, Orange, Lee and surrounding counties (within an hour's drive of one of our offices.) Most of our patients receive services in their private residences,                 but, we also serve patients in nursing facilities with which we have contracts, adult care homes and assisted living facilities.

What services does UNC Hospice offer?

  • Registered nurses provide nursing care as needed, including 24 hour, 365 days a year on-call access.
  • Medical social workers offer emotional support, help assess needs, make community service referrals, and assist with financial concerns.
  • Certified nursing assistants provide assistance with personal care.
  • Chaplaincy services offer spiritual support, if requested.
  • Trained patient/family volunteers provide support meeting a broad range of needs.
  • Bereavement care is available to families and anyone in the community following the loss of a loved one.
  • Medications, medical supplies and equipment related to the terminal illness.
  • Physical, occupational, speech therapy and dietary counseling  as needed.

Is Hospice only for patients with cancer?

No.  Though many patients do have cancer, hospice serves terminally ill people of all ages, with all types of progressive diseases. These include heart, lung, kidney, vascular and neurological diseases, as well as AIDS and Alzheimer’s.

Will my regular doctor be involved?

Yes.  Hospice works closely with your doctor to give you the care you need. The hospice medical director is also available for consultation to the hospice team.

How do I pay for hospice?

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans offer a hospice benefit.  There is no cost for covered services to patients who are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Hospice care became a covered           benefit under the Medicare program in 1983. This benefit covers virtually all aspects of hospice care with little out-of-pocket expense to the patient or family.  The benefit is paid per diem (by the day)               under Medicare Part A. 

Most private insurance companies and HMOs include a hospice benefit.  The insurance company determines the amount of coverage for services, medications and supplies. Annual deductibles and co-pays do apply for patients that are privately insured if they have not been met at the time the services are billed. 

Additional financial assistance is available for patients who meet the qualifications.  Community donations help to provide for services not reimbursed. 
Is Hospice staff available after hours?

UNC Hospice maintains office hours Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except during Agency holidays.  Our telephone number is (919) 542-5545.  Our toll free number is (877) 715-0606.

After Hours Coverage is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and an on-call procedure is in effect after normal working hours, weekends and holidays.

To reach a nurse after hours call:  (919) 542-5545.  A registered nurse is on call to accept patient/family calls, referrals for service and to arrange for service for patient emergencies as needed.  We utilize an answering service after regular business hours to reach this hospice nurse. 

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