Medicare is most famously known to cover more or less all the costs associated with hospice care. In 2015, Medicare covered about $160 per patient per day.
By 2016, the amount they covered rose to about $190 for the first 60 days of care, then dropped to about $145 for every day thereafter.
As much as hospice providers want to prioritize patient care, they have to consider keeping their business afloat.
This article details how hospices make money and how much their workers earn. On top of that, it also contains information on volunteers, the secret weapon behind all great hospice care services.
How do hospices make money?
Most hospices receive their revenue from third-party insurance companies such as Medicare. Other programs such as Medicaid and Veterans Health Administration fully cover the costs of hospice stays.
Even private insurance covers hospice services. If a patient is not enrolled under an insurance plan, then they can either receive a reduced rate from their hospice provider or request for help paying through donations, grants, and other sources.
Hospices spend more money at the beginning and at the end of a patient’s care. They profit most in the days when a care routine has been established.
This has led to some hospices enrolling patients who are healthier and therefore give the hospice less expenses to deal with while still receiving the $160 per day of the patient’s stay.
They cherry pick amongst their patients to boost profits instead of considering their eligibility and end-of-life comfort.
Such practices are under investigation by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) because they result in less slots for patients who are in desperate need of hospice care.
How much do hospice workers get paid?
According to national average, in the first four years of a hospice nurse’s career, they can earn about $29.87 per hour. This rate can rise to about $30.12 in their 5th to 9th year of experience and continue rising depending on their credentials and experience.
Hospice nurses in Los Angeles, California earn 34% more than the national average. There are different kinds of nurses in charge of different kind of care in a hospice care facility.
Each one has their own average salary:
• Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) $10 – $17
• Registered Nurse $24 – $42
• Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) $16 – $27
• Medical Assistant $12 – $20
• Registered Nurse (RN), Critical Care $24 – $46
• Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) $18 – $29
• Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse $11 – $17
These are only salary estimates. Certain factors may include the level of expertise a hospice worker has, as well as their experience and responsibilities.
Hospice workers also receive the following benefits in exchange for the compassionate service they provide:
• Retirement Plan
• Health Insurance
• Paid Time Off
• Tuition Reimbursement
• Flexible Schedule
• Dental Insurance
• Vision Insurance
• Gym Membership
• Mileage Reimbursement
Again, these benefits vary depending on the contract between the worker and the company they work for.
Do hospices accept volunteers?
Yes, hospices are more than happy to have volunteers working for them. They can help hospice organizations maintain a high level of patient care for almost no cost at all.
Volunteers can usually choose which side of the organization they are more comfortable in. There are different kinds of volunteers for every part of the organization.
Outlined below are the different types, and their expected responsibilities.
Patient Care Volunteers
These are the volunteers who put themselves on the front line and interact with patients on a personal level. Their responsibilities can range from shopping for groceries, doing household chores, conversing with the patient, and the like.
They can report back to the hospice care organization and inform them about the patient’s progress, and what else the patient needs to feel more comfortable.
Patient care volunteers are people who have the capacity to empathize and lend a compassionate ear for the patients. They have great deal of patience as they try to make the patient comfortable without the use of medication.
They volunteer their time to help improve the patient’s quality of life.
Although they may not work directly for patients, administrative volunteers help out in the hospice organization’s office. They assist with patient care indirectly by answering phone calls, performing clerical duties, setting up community outreach events, etc.
This is the best type of volunteer job for people who have experience working in administration. It shouldn’t be considered “lesser” compared to patient care volunteering because they are the ones who keep everything organized for the sake of those working out in the field.
Administrative volunteers are those who feel more comfortable working within the confines of the office. It could be where the socially awkward volunteers can shine without succumbing to the pressure of social interaction.
For the more creative and talented volunteers, they can offer to play live music or engage in lively programs that attempt to bring out the musical side of a patient.
Their responsibilities can range from something as simple as playing the patient’s favorite song to something more complex such as organizing a private concert for the patient.
They can even coordinate with the patient and help them make their own unique song which they can then perform together in an event that celebrates a patient’s milestone while in hospice.
Music volunteers are just as important as any other volunteers because in patients with dementia, music is oftentimes the only thing they can relate to.
If a patient has had experience playing an instrument, it could be their only way of communicating and expressing their thoughts. Muscle memory is usually the last type of memory to go.
This means that a patient who can no longer talk or make sense of the world around them can still play an instrument beautifully.
It takes a great music volunteer to bring out the best in these types of patients. Music is one of the universal ways of communicating.
And it has a relaxing and calming effect that greatly improves a patient’s quality of life. Even if a patient is too tired to engage actively in activities, they can always sit back and listen to music.
Pet Therapy Volunteers
Perhaps the cutest of all volunteers would have to be the animals who are specially trained to cater to therapeutic pet programs.
Studies show that interacting with pets such as dogs greatly lowers a patient’s blood pressure, reduces physical pain, and increases their level of comfort.
The most common types of pets enrolled in this type of volunteering are Golden Retrievers and Labradors. Both breeds are known to be social and have patient demeanors.
If a volunteer’s pet is calm and great around meeting new people, then they could be eligible for volunteering for pet therapy. All the pets have to endure is being petted by the patients and getting the occasional hug.
For most dogs, this wouldn’t even be classified as a job. They love attention and would gladly help a patient feel better just by being there for them.
Some dogs are trained since birth to administer this type of care, but this doesn’t mean normal dogs can’t get in with the program.
Hospice organizations make sure both dog and owner are trained to interact with patients before allowing them to officially provide this level of care.
Certified Massage Therapist Volunteers
When a patient is feeling physical pain that cannot solely be eased by medication, most hospice care treatments turn to massage therapy.
Not many nurses and medical workers are trained as massage therapist so the hospice organization could turn to other people to do the job for them.
These volunteers help relax the patient and ease the soreness in their body that could come from lying down for long periods of time.
They help patients practice self-care by advising them on the best ways to keep themselves comfortable.
Overall, volunteers can often spend more time with the patient for as long as they are needed. Patients can rest assured knowing that volunteers are thoroughly trained before they do any sort of volunteer work.
However, there are some limitations that come with volunteering. Volunteers should not be administering any kinds of medicine to a patient.
These kinds of decisions are the responsibility of the medical care professionals who are part of the patient’s team. Drawing this line between volunteer and medical professional lessens the capacity for mistakes and ensures no confusion when it comes to accountability.
What do hospice volunteers learn from their experience?
Most volunteers learn about the rewarding nature of their experience. It can give an individual a deeper appreciation for life and the things that truly matter.
They are no longer as affected by the superficial problems because they understand that these things will pass.
Volunteers form deeper connections with the people around them because they value the importance of human interaction and socialization.
They learn kindness, patience, and compassionate. Volunteers are generous people who give their time to end-of-life care patients.
They play such an important role that without them, a hospice organization would not be able to run as smoothly.
Do hospice organizations accept donations?
Yes. Although the process and modes of payment may differ depending on each organization. For most, online donations are widely accepted.
If you want to help keep a non-profit hospice organization running but don’t have the time to volunteer, donating is the next best thing.
Look for hospice care organizations in your area and decide how much money you would like to donate. Most of them offer multiple ways to send in your donations.
You can donate online, by mail, or by phone. There is also the offer of gifting money in honor of a family member who passed away. This type of donation is usually targeted to a specific recipient who is in hospice already.
Helping organize a fundraising event also counts as donating—even participating in one can already be considered a donation! If donating cash is not something you feel comfortable about, goods and services can do just fine.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, patients who are under hospice receive the care they need to die with dignity, at the height of comfort. Laws and ordinances made by Medicare and other insurance companies seek to protect these patients first and foremost.
And that is what matters. Patients already face a prognosis of less than six months, they shouldn’t have to worry about the financial burden their hospice care takes.
This applies to the patients’ family members and loved ones. Dealing with the inevitability of losing someone they love is a big deal in itself.
They don’t need to worry about looking for ways to pay off their loved one’s hospice care. With care costing as high as $160 per day, that can quickly rack up to approximately $30,000 for the entire six-month period.
Some hospice services can even charge a fee of $10,000 per month.
Their primary focus should be spending as much time as they can before the patient runs out of time.
That is what MedPAC aims to protect. They understand how important it is to ease both the burden of the patient and their loved ones.
It is also why volunteers are necessary to an organization. They provide an extra level of palliative care that might be missed if practitioners are stretched too thin between patients.
Volunteers are found at all levels in an organization and each one has their own responsibilities and contributions.
Although it may be tricky to create a balance between quality patient care and sufficient funding, this problem falls on the hospice organizations rather than the patients and their family members.
Hospice care always puts patients first and their family second. They provide quality care in the comfort of a patient’s own home, and with the right insurance can cost the patients nothing at all.