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Larry P. Skendzel, MD Hospice overview video

Hospice: A focus on living well

Gundersen Health System provides hospice care for adults and pediatric patients with life-limiting illnesses. Through hospice services, we bring high-quality care into the very place each patient feels most secure and comfortable: their home.

Hospice is a shift from hope of a cure to a focus on your quality of life. Hospice care providers listen to you and offer choices, making every effort to let you stay in control. With your symptoms and pain managed, you can make the most of each day you have left. Hospice provides physical, emotional, spiritual and social support to patients, families and caregivers.

Hospice is for patients with a life expectancy of six months or less and who have decided to no longer undergo active treatment. In hospice, many symptoms—such as pain—are controlled so they do not become severe. Symptoms that might otherwise require hospitalization can be managed in your home. Hospice is also available in nursing homes, community-based residential facilities and assisted-living facility settings.

Hospice frequently asked questions

When is it time for hospice care?

Only you and your loved ones can decide if and when hospice is right for you. Some factors to consider include:

  • Are you having difficulty getting to and from appointments? 
  • Is improved quality of life important to you? 
  • Do you want to remain out of the hospital?
  • Are you having concerns about managing symptoms and medications? 
  • Do you want to stop treatment that's feeling more like a burden than a benefit? (Once you are in hospice, you still have the right to stop services and resume your previous treatment.)
  • Does your family or other caregiver(s) need training and support for caring for a loved one at home?

"I wouldn't have been able to care for my husband at home without Hospice Care."

What specific services does hospice provide?

Hospice is a group of dedicated professionals including your primary care clinician, the hospice medical director, registered nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, volunteers, dietitians and more. The team works directly with the patient and the person providing the most care for the patient. Hospice services include:

Patient Care

  • Care planning and management 
  • Symptom and pain management 
  • Skin care, dressing changes, etc. 
  • Assistance with bathing and personal care 
  • Medical equipment needs such as walkers, wheelchairs, commodes and hospital beds
  • Medical supplies such as bandages, catheters and other items
  • Medication management 
  • Physical, occupational and speech therapy consultation
  • Nutrition information

Caregiver support

  • Caregiver training and support 
  • Offers 24 hour availability to answer questions, discuss your concerns and provide help as needed
  • Spiritual support to patients and caregivers if needed. Hospice chaplains will also work with the patient's clergy or spiritual counselor.
  • Respite (relief) for caregivers needing a break from providing daily care 
  • Trained volunteers to provide companionship or help with memory making

Planning & resources

  • Advance care and end-of-life planning 
  • Assistance with coping and grief
  • Short-term counseling 
  • Finding helpful resources within your community

"Hospice was great! They took care of everything."

Who is eligible and who pays for hospice care?

Patients who are eligible for hospice care include:

  • Those who are no longer receiving active treatment to cure their illness 
  • Those with a life expectancy of about six months or less (this is determined by your clinician and the hospice medical director)

Hospice care is covered by:

  • Medicare hospice benefit 
  • Most private insurance plans 
  • Managed care (HMOs) 
  • Medicaid hospice benefit (Wisconsin and Minnesota) 
  • Iowa Medicaid MCO (Preauthorization is required)

No one is refused hospice services due to an inability to pay.

How do I start hospice care?

If you feel hospice care is right for you and your family:

  • Talk to your primary care or specialty clinician
  • Or, you may contact hospice directly in Wisconsin or Minnesota at (608) 775-8435. In Iowa, please call hospice at (563) 422-6267.

In-home hospice service area:

The Gundersen Hospice program is state-licensed and Medicare/Medicaid certified in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Hospice care is available in all or parts of the following counties:


  • Jackson
  • La Crosse
  • Monroe
  • Trempealeau
  • Vernon


  • Fillmore
  • Houston
  • Winona


  • Fayette
  • Winneshiek
  • Allamakee
  • Clayton
  • Bremer
  • Chickasaw
  • Buchanan
  • Black Hawk

The Hospice Quilt

A quilt, a 'comforter,' is the symbol for Gundersen Hospice. The rings embody our hospice team, our patients and their families. The hearts represent relationships, nurtured and cherished. At the center is the patient, surrounded, linked, joined by hospice team members, caregivers, friends and family. Their rings also connect with each other-each drawing warmth, comfort and support from the other, strengthened by the spirit of genuine caring.

what to expect

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