Dad is at the end of his life, but we have not money for a nursing home. What should we do?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My Dad has stage 4 lung cancer. He was sent to a nursing home from the hospital for rehab. He can no longer have any chemo treatment. His body can not handle it. His doctor said if he does get treatment, next time it might kill him. Ok so my question is... What the heck are we suppose to do now? We can't keep him in this nursing home because insurance will not pay for it. The hospital sent him to the nursing home, so where do we take him now?? He needs oxygen but no one will allow him to have it at home. He eats but very little, he drinks but only ensure drinks. He uses the bathroom but only with help. He is very weak and can't sit up more than a few minutes. What are we suppose to do? If the doctors don't help, and insurance is used up, does anybody care? He needs help, we need help. We are going to bring him home.

Expert Answers

There is help available. This difficult period when treatment no longer works and so health insurance no longer provide standard coverage is, fortunately, addressed by hospice, which is covered by Medicare and almost all other health insurance. Hospice provides what is called palliative or comfort care, which is designed not to cure an illness but to provide relief from symptoms and other aspects of physical comfort. It can include things like pain and other medication, oxygen, physical therapy, and the services of a visiting hospice nurse who is specially trained in providing pain relief and comfort care. Hospice nurses and other workers also help family members learn how to provide comfort care when a hospice care provider is not there. Hospice can even provide for periods of inpatient care, where the patient is moved to a nursing facility, simply to give family caregivers some respite -- a period of relief for them.

Under Medicare, hospice is available to anyone whose doctor certifies that they have a terminal illness and less than six months to live. (It can be renewed if the patient lives longer than the expected six months.) There is only a very small copayment for hospice care. To learn more about qualifying for hospice and what hospice offers, see the article Choosing Hospice Under Medicare on this site.