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Is Jimmy Carter Spending a Long Time in Hospice?

Spending months at a time in hospice is not at all uncommon, an expert tells PEOPLE, two months after President Carter's family confirmed that he had stopped receiving medical intervention.
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The news that former President Jimmy Carter entered hospice care came in late February. The Carter Center announced that he’d “decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care, instead of additional medical intervention.”

Now more than two months later, experts say that spending months at a time in hospice — while not always the case — is not at all uncommon, reports MSN’s recent article entitled, “Jimmy Carter’s Hospice Care Is Not Unusually Long, Expert Says: ‘Average Is 60-70 Days.’”

“A misconception is that the average length of stay in hospice is for the last several days of someone’s life,” explains Jonathan Fleece, president and CEO of Empath Health, one of the largest not-for-profit hospice organizations in the country. “The average length of stay nationally is in the 60- to 70-day range.”

While many consider hospice 24/7 care, it depends on a patient’s situation.

“A lot of hospice care is not 24/7. It’s in and out of the home and working with the family and caregiver to be able to support their loved one,” he says. “So we teach them a lot of different ways to help, whether it’s helping with bathing or administering medication or keeping them comfortable.”

It’s interesting to note that hospice was made eligible for Medicare reimbursement under the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 — which was passed into law under Carter himself.

“I truly believe that the former president wanted to make this part of the American conversation,” Fleece said.

Hospice care isn’t only meant for those at the end of life but for their family members, as well. It also provides caregivers and families with the resources they need.

This includes guiding family members through the grief and bereavement process, including the period of “anticipatory grief,” in which the family and patient know that death is coming.

Hospice care can also include things like veterans programs (Carter, being a veteran, would likely be provided with a pinning ceremony, in which a decorated soldier administers a flag with military honors). It also provides full medical care, as well as spiritual support.

“We hear all the time from families and patients, ‘I wish someone had explained the scale and depth and breadth of what hospice can bring sooner.'”

Reference: MSN (April 20, 2023) “Jimmy Carter’s Hospice Care Is Not Unusually Long, Expert Says: ‘Average Is 60-70 Days’”