Imagine feeling left out, disenfranchised, or having lost hope that there are available options for your end-of-life needs? There are people in this country, and in our nearby communities that are facing this very dilemma. Maybe you are one of them.

The range of underserved people of this country include ethnic and minority families, the homeless, adults with special needs, and low-income and rural areas populations. Many patients in these categories and more, who do not have adequate access to medical care, are dying alone without compassionate hospice care. There are action steps that can be taken to end that dilemma. No one should have to walk their life-limiting journey without the benefits of end-of-life support. Hospice services are for everyone who qualifies, no matter their race or socio-economic status. 

What are the unique care needs for underserved communities? 

Lack of information about the benefits and cost of hospice

Often there is the lack of information about what is available through hospice services, how they will personally benefit, what government health plans are available and who covers the cost. The underserved populations in our country tend to not use hospice services. Those patients may not be aware that hospice care enhances the quality-of-life for patients who have terminal illnesses, even beyond cancer. Statistics show that patients receive the greatest benefits if they have hospice for longer lengths of time, rather than just getting on board at the very end of life, as has been the long-time tradition. Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits and most commercial insurance plans cover hospice services with little to no out-of-pocket costs for the patient. There is no additional cost for hospice medical and care services, including approved medications, equipment, and personal supplies, as deemed individually necessary with hospice’s in-take process. 

In 1982 Medicare enacted the Medicare hospice benefit to all patients with a life expectancy of 6 months or less, who chose not to pursue aggressive, curative care. These Medicare benefits are for ALL people with life-limiting illnesses and include medical care, pain and symptom management, with emotional and spiritual support. Several years ago Medicare began offering Medicare Advantage Carve-in, which significantly supports the underserved, who are deemed eligible. 

How we can make a difference in serving the underserved in hospice

As a concerned citizen 

Consider engaging with people in underserved neighborhoods about the value, benefits, and availability of hospice services. Reach out to Heart to Heart Hospice for help. If you know someone with a need, connect them with a local Medicaid or Medicare benefits office, so they can take advantage of hospice benefits, if they qualify. 

Consider volunteering, if you represent a diverse culture or a historically underserved group, so that you can help dispel the misconceptions and remove the stigmas of hospice. Be the smiling face someone is looking for.

As a provider

Meet with a Heart to Heart Hospice representative to make your practice aware of the scope and services of hospice and the benefits of Medicaid/Medicare for your underserved patients. Have those end-of-life conversations, so patients know they have real solutions and can take advantage of them. Focus on breaking down the barriers and misconceptions about hospice, which will open up opportunities for underserved communities to take full advantage of the benefits. Be aware of when your patients need hospice services, and encourage them to get on board with ample time to gain the most benefit.

How Heart to Heart Hospice can help 

If you consider yourself part of our underserved community, and have a life-limiting diagnosis, think of your goals for end-of-life care. If you prefer end-of-life care in your own home, surrounded by those you love, consider Heart to Heart Hospice as decisions are being made. We provide aggressive comfort measures for terminally ill patients, along with compassionate support for both the patient and the caregivers, recognizing that every family’s needs are unique. We are dedicated to gaining trust so we can bring much-needed empathy to the underserved communities that surround us.