Making the decision to transition your loved one to hospice care is an emotional time. It’s often followed by confusion, and it can be challenging to understand available options, and exactly how hospice care works.
Knowing ahead of time which hospice services are available can help you make the right choices when the time comes. If you are considering end-of-life care options for your family, below are some questions you can ask to learn more about your potential hospice provider:
Is the hospice organization Medicare certified and/or accredited?
Most hospices are certified by Medicare and are therefore required to follow Medicare’s rules and regulations. This is important if you wish to receive hospice care as part of your Medicare/Medicaid coverage.
Several organizations accredit hospices, surveying them to ensure they meet quality standards. Hospices are not required to be accredited, but accreditation can be a reflection of its commitment to quality. TJC (The Joint Commission) or CHAP (Community Health Accreditation Program) are two of the organizations that frequently accredit hospices.
Where do you provide care?
Hospice services can be provided in a wide variety of locations, including private homes, nursing home and long-term care residential facilities, and in hospitals. This may be important to you depending on the complexity of your loved one’s illness.
Are clinical staff (physicians, nurses, social workers) certified or credentialed in hospice and palliative care?
There are several credentials that hospice professionals can achieve based on their knowledge of hospice or palliative care, and their educational experience.
Will staff come to the home if there is a crisis at any time of the day or night, and on weekend? Who is available to make the home visit?
Hospice staff are available by phone to help you 24-hours a day, seven days a week. However, some hospices offer limited in-home support on nights and weekends, while others are able to send staff out to a patient’s home no matter when a crisis arises. Ask what members of the team are available for emergency needs during nights and weekends.
What extra services does the hospice offer?
All hospices should provide expert medical care, emotional and spiritual care, medications, medical supplies and equipment, volunteers and grief support after the death of a loved one. In addition to these services some hospices offer specialized programs for children, people with specific diseases and other “extra” services that may benefit your family.
How many patients at a time are assigned to each hospice staff member who will be caring for the patient?
Some hospices assign a certain number of patients to each staff member and may be willing to share that information with you. That might influence your decision to receive care from a hospice.
How quickly can the intake/admissions staff come to begin the admissions process? Do you admit patients on nights or on weekends?
Some hospices are able to begin the admissions process and have someone begin hospice services at night or on weekends. A hospice’s ability to start services quickly might be very important to you based on your loved one’s medical condition and be an indication of the hospice’s ability to quickly respond to unexpected care needs.