Some Hospice Patients Recover, Check Out
Some patients who check into hospices believing they are near death go on to recover and leave hospice care, McClatchy/San Jose Mercury News reports. For Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries to cover hospice care, the patient's doctor and the hospice's doctor must agree that the patient will die within six months.
About two-thirds of hospice patients die within 30 days, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. If a patient does survive six months but is not likely to survive another six months, the patient remains in hospice.
Patients who survive six months are discharged if their condition has improved and stabilized enough that they are likely to live another six months. According to CDC data, an estimated 100,000 hospice patients will leave hospice care this year. One study estimates that about one-third of those who leave hospice die within six months of their release.
About 5,000 to 20,000 hospice survivors annually "live on with evident satisfaction," while the remainder is transferred to nursing homes, according to McClatchy/Mercury News.
Experts say there are several factors that can lead terminally ill patients to recover enough to leave hospice care. In many cases, doctors inaccurately estimated how long a patient had to live, McClatchy/Mercury News reports.
According to McClatchy/Mercury News, predicting how long a hospice patient will live might be more difficult today than it was in the 1970s and 1980s, when three-quarters of hospice patients were admitted because of cancer. By contrast, nearly half of current hospice patients have dementia or heart, lung, kidney or liver failure -- which can make the length of a patient's decline less predictable.
"Another theory ... is that pending death brings out the curative power of family and friends," McClatchy/Mercury News reports. In addition, some experts say patients might improve in hospice because they are receiving better care than before they entered facilities (Greve, McClatchy/San Jose Mercury News, 7/5).