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What Are the Four Levels of Hospice Care?

Hospice care is special kind of care that provides comfort, support, and dignity at the end of life. It’s the right choice when your doctor determines that you or your loved one have six months or less to live and have decided to forgo curative treatments. When you call a hospice organization, you are getting expert help during the end-of-life journey.

A comprehensive hospice program cares for the whole person and their family. Hospice focuses on physical, emotional, and spiritual quality of life with the help of a team of experts, including a board-certified physician, nurse practitioner, nurse, social worker, spiritual support counselor, certified home health aide, and volunteer. The care is provided in your home, nursing home, assisted living, or inpatient hospice facility.

Hospice offers four levels of care, as defined by Medicare, to meet the varying needs of patients and their families. The four levels of hospice include routine home care, continuous home care, general inpatient care, and respite care.


Specifics on the Four Levels of Hospice Care

Samaritan is a Medicare-certified hospice provider, and every Medicare-certified hospice provider must provide four levels of hospice care. The four levels of hospice care to are available for anyone who is eligible for Medicare.

  • Routine Home Care. Routine home care is the basic level of hospice care provided in your home, assisted living, or nursing home. This level of care offers a team approach by hospice staff and your physician to provide comfort at the end of life. This hospice level of care includes medical social services, spiritual support, volunteer visits, bereavement counseling, medication, equipment, and all supplies related to your loved one’s hospice diagnosis.
  • Continuous Home Care. The level of hospice care called continuous home care is when a nurse stays in your home for an extended period of time, if your loved one is experiencing a medical crisis and severe symptoms such as unrelieved pain or shortness of breath. However, during a medical crisis like this, your hospice physician or nurse may decide the general inpatient level of care will be a better option to address your loved one’s needs.

  • General Inpatient Care. Sometimes, severe pain or other symptoms require an advanced level of care that is more effectively provided during a short stay in an inpatient hospice facility. If your loved one’s needs intensify, the hospice team may recommend this level of hospice care and transferring your loved one to the inpatient level of care at The Samaritan Center at Voorhees or Mount Holly. The goal of inpatient hospice care is to control severe pain and symptoms so that your loved one can return home to their family and familiar surroundings, if possible, and resume routine hospice care at home.


  • Respite Care. The respite level of hospice care is provided on an occasional basis and offers a planned, short-term break for unpaid family caregivers from the challenges of assisting a loved one with an advanced illness. It can only be provided at a Medicare-certified inpatient hospice facility, hospital, or skilled nursing facility that has the ability to provide around-the–clock nursing care should your loved one’s plan of care require 24-hour care. Please speak to your Samaritan hospice nurse about the respite level of care.

How to Determine the Appropriate Level of Hospice Care?

The appropriate level of hospice care is determined by your physician/specialist, or a hospice physician or nurse visiting you or your loved one in the home, hospital, or assisted living/nursing home. The healthcare provider will do an assessment to determine which level of hospice care is right for you. If you have any questions, please ask your healthcare provide or hospice nurse.

If you live in Southern New Jersey and would like to learn if your loved one is eligible for hospice care, please call our nurse care coordinator today at (800) 229-8183

The goal of hospice care is to help you live in peace, comfort, and dignity up to and including the moment of death. Samaritan is the oldest and largest hospice care provider in New Jersey, and the only NJ-hospice working in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation to provide an advanced cardiac care hospice program.