Medicare, hospice, support groups and grief counseling

Published 8:26 pm Monday, September 21, 2015

Joy is a big part of life, but sadly, so, too, is grief. Whether it’s the loss of a beloved pet when we were growing up or the loss of a parent, friend, sibling or spouse due to age, illness or an accident, grief is part of our human condition.


Each of us handles grief and loss in our own way, and short-term depression – for two to three weeks – associated with the loss of a spouse or any loved one, is a normal part of the grieving process.

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Many people are aware of and may have made use of hospice for a loved one diagnosed with a terminal illness. However, most people who know of this Medicare benefit are not aware that there are services offered and covered by Medicare, available to family caregivers in their time of grief.


Through hospice, as an added benefit from Medicare, the family of a deceased loved can receive grief and loss counseling for up to a year following the hospice beneficiary’s death. As with most counseling, it often helps, but in some cases only modestly on symptoms of depression in surviving spouses. Because the grieving process is uniquely personal, the surviving spouse may have to seek out more than one type of assistance to deal with his or her intense feelings of loss.


Many hospices realize this, and to be of as much support and assistance as possible, may offer a variety of bereavement services that may include support groups, memorial ceremonies and educational materials in addition to the cards and telephone calls that may be received expressing sympathy and support from friends, church members and relatives outside the area.


There are situations such as the one our family experienced with my mother when she was placed under care in a hospital provided hospice wing near where she lived. Due to her age and her failing condition at the time she entered hospice, we felt that her passing, 12 days later, was a blessing.


The quality of end-of-life care she received was the best that could be offered, and knowing that mom was pain free and well cared for, plus being on-hand at her passing had a depression-lifting impact on our entire family.


For many, hospice services can ease the caregiver’s burden by offering respite from tending to the spouse’s physical and emotional needs, and can be of assistance in the spouse’s preparation for the patient’s impending passing.


Grieving is normal, and any course of action that the surviving family caregivers take to help combat feelings of isolation and helplessness, from social interaction to professional support, can be incredibly helpful.


Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare. Ron is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available as a Kindle book on His podcasts can be heard weekly at Contact Ron at 828-696-9799 or by email at