CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – 22News is working for you to better understand end-of-life care options, following former President Jimmy Carter now receiving home hospice care after a series of short hospital stays.

22News spoke with a specialist at Baystate Health, who told us that hospice is a program that offers comfort and dignity as the patient lives with a terminal illness.

Hospice care services can include nursing care, pain management, and bereavement support. A common misconception is that hospice is only offered to those dying within days. Baystate specialists say, in fact, the earlier care begins, the better it is for the patient and even their family.

“One of the benefits of referring hospice or even just talking about hospice, even before patients are ready to make that transition in care, it can be helpful in planning,” said Dr. Emily Zametkin of Baystate Home Health and Baystate Palliative Care Inpatient Service. “So when that decision is made, that it’s time for hospice, there’s a plan in place already.”

According to the Hospice Foundation of America, Medicare covers all aspects of hospice care and services. In Massachusetts, all insurance providers are required to provide hospice benefits.