President Jimmy Carter in home hospice care: What is hospice, how does it work and who qualifies?

Former President Jimmy Carter remains in hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia. The Carter Center made the announcement regarding the president's health over the weekend. Representatives from the Center say the 98-year-old has decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and his wife, Rosalyn.

With former President Carter in hospice care, many may be asking what that is. Hospice is defined as care for terminally ill patients. According to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, people enter hospice care if the likely have six months or less to live. The priority is not to provide further treatment, but to reduce pain and discomfort toward the end of life.

A recent survey found most Americans did not know hospice care could be offered at home or that it's fully covered by Medicare.

How does home hospice care work?

According to the American Cancer Society, a person who enters into hospice care is asked to pick someone to be their primary caregiver. Usually this is a family member or close friend. The primary caregiver works with the hospice team and patient to develop a care plan based on the patient's specific needs and preferences. The hospice team consists of doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, dietitians, home health aides, clergy, therapists, and trained volunteers who work collaboratively to help the patient and primary caregiver make decisions about the care that's needed.


For patients receiving in-home hospice care, generally the hospice nurses make regular visits and are readily available by phone. Other members of the hospice team may also visit depending on the patient's needs and insurance coverage.

What services can hospice offer former President Carter and his family?

According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, hospice care can offer a variety of services. These include:

  • Allows a person to remain and receive medical care in your own home, if desired and possible.
  • It prevents or reduces trips to the emergency room for aggressive care that you might not want. Although you still might go to the hospital for tests or treatments, hospice allows you and your loved ones to remain in control of your care.
  • Members of the hospice team can clean, cook, or do other chores, giving your loved ones a chance to run errands, go out to dinner, take a walk, or nap.
  • Hospice programs offer bereavement counseling for your loved ones, often for up to a year.


Who qualifies for hospice care?

According to the GPCH, people who are eligible for hospice care generally have a limited life expectancy of 6 months or less.

The Hospice Compare website helps patients and their families compare hospice providers on their performance and assist consumers in making decisions that are right for them.