Hospice is About Living6 min read

Hospice. It’s a word that holds so much weight, yet very few families truly understand it.

When someone is facing a terminal illness, there are a lot of emotions involved for everyone who is walking the journey together. It’s one of the many reasons that Wellspring encourages and equips families to have important discussions about significant life moments long before the time comes. Because in a moment of crisis, it can be harder to hear.

One thing we often experience at Wellspring are families who get to the end of life and recognize that they don’t have a plan in place. There are questions about the actual process of dying. And we often hear that families don’t know what their loved one’s wishes are. This can cause confusion among family members, which in turn can cause a heightened state of tension and additional emotional stress.

If you believe hospice is a service families utilize right before their loved one passes away, you are not alone. It’s our hope that your perception can change to see the fullness of what hospice is, because when used to its maximum potential, hospice truly is a gift. It’s a gift God gives us to be really intentional about how to LIVE, while also navigating the reality that there is a terminal illness that will eventually call a loved one to his or her heavenly home.

To help you navigate these conversations, here are the top 10 questions asked of the Wellspring Hospice Team  as it relates to hospice.

When does someone qualify for hospice care? If a doctor doesn’t suggest it for your loved one, how can you ask for it?

A family can ask for a hospice evaluation. For someone to qualify for hospice, most providers take into account a person’s physical condition now, declining trends (weight loss, functional decline, cognitive decline), new diagnosis or exacerbations. Generally, information from the physician or hospital is needed to make the determination. If a family feels their loved one would qualify, a hospice provider can assist them in how to talk to their physician about what is needed.

What does hospice do for my family?

Many people who have utilized hospice services say they feel like it helped them gain back some control—at a time when everything feels out of control. When someone is terminally ill, most likely their body has been in battle mode. Hospice allows the patient and the family to start to plan for how to live. Together, with a hospice nurse, you will navigate important discussions about how to live a full life with as little pain as possible. At Wellspring, our hospice nurses provide education on how to care for a loved one so you can help be a part of the process. We have a chaplain who will be there to provide spiritual support. We also have clinical support to make sure the patient’s care needs are being met and they are well cared for.

Are hospice services covered by insurance? What is covered and what isn’t?

Most insurances have a hospice benefit, and Wellspring always checks this before we start. Hospice staff, medications, supplies and equipment related to the terminal diagnosis are typically covered expenses. We encourage you to speak with your doctor and then reach out to a local hospice provider who will go over this information with you.

Does hospice help me die? Meaning, if I am ready to go to Heaven, does this make my time on earth go faster?

Hospice doesn’t speed up the dying process. Only God knows the number of days you have on this earth. The medications and support we give do not speed up the dying process. Medications are given at a level/dose for comfort, always at the lowest doses. Medications are only increased as appropriate to accommodate the patient’s needs to make a patient’s time on earth more comfortable not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Home vs. hospital setting. Do I get to choose?

You can choose home, assisted living, nursing home, adult foster care, or independent living. Hospice is usually only utilized in a hospital setting if the patients’ symptoms can’t be managed at home, and is usually only needed on a short-term basis. Once it is determined hospice services are needed, your hospice provider and your physician will help determine the best environment for you or your loved one to receive care.

How long does it take to qualify and start receiving services?

At Wellspring it usually takes less than 48 hours for a patient to start receiving services. This is totally dependent on the physician/hospital sending over the qualifying information and documentation so that a patient can be admitted into our hospice services.

How often is a nurse in the home? What happens when they’re not there?

Nurses visit one to three times a week depending on the patient’s needs. In the very beginning, it will often feel more frequent as the hospice provider is establishing a plan and meeting with family members. The frequency of visits after that will be determined by the level of need based on the care plan established. Even when nurses aren’t on site, support is always just a phone call away.

Is hospice used only for people who are ready to die? What happens if I don’t die for a long period of time? Does the benefit keep going?

Patients are evaluated every couple of months. If there is some decline, hospice services will continue. Wellspring has had people on service for more than two years. Patients can also be discharged from hospice if symptoms are managed, and they are showing stability without decline. Patients can always sign up again when the need arises.  Hospice does not change the trajectory of the illness, but it provides support along the way.

What is the benefit of hospice?

The benefits of hospice are all that you make them. But first and foremost, it is helpful if you really lean into utilizing it as a benefit for you and your loved ones. If you have conversations now about what is important to you at the end of life, when the time comes to make difficult decisions you will already have a plan in place.

Hospice is truly about living. We know life is precious. And we also know time is precious. At Wellspring, we want to make sure you are living life in a way that makes you most comfortable, and also in a way that allows you to cherish the time you have with the most important people in your life. Hospice does that because it also allows you to make choices. You no longer have to spend your days going to doctors appointments and taking medication that could potentially have negative side effects. You get to choose what medication you want to take, and you can begin to manage your mind, body, and spirit.

Why Wellspring?

If you live in the Great Lakes Bay Region (50-mile radius from Frankenmuth) we would love to be your hospice provider. The Wellspring hospice program provides all of the standard hospice care services, and we don’t stop there. We have partnered with donors who understand the importance of hospice care. Through their generous support, we are also able to provide chaplain services, bereavement services, a bereavement camp for children, music therapy and more—all for free.

If Wellspring can be of support to you, your family, or your congregation, please feel free to reach out to the Wellspring hospice team for more information at

Photo © KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock

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About the Author

Jill M. Haiser is the Vice President of Marketing, Recruitment and Brand Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer for Wellspring

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