What to ask when seeking hospice care?
It’s important to find out about the services that each hospice offers. If there are several hospices in your area, we encourage you to interview and speak with a few and/or ask your healthcare provider if they have recommendations for selecting a hospice. Be sure to communicate to your physician if you decide to request services from a particular hospice.
Below are a few questions to help identify factors that may be important to you and your family when selecting the best hospice care.
What do others say about this hospice?
Get references both from people you know and from people in the field – e.g., local hospitals, nursing homes, clinicians.
How long has the hospice been in operation?
Longevity is a good indication of stability.
Is the hospice Medicare-certified?
Medicare certification is essential if the patient is a Medicare beneficiary to permit reimbursement.
Is the hospice accredited, and if required, state-licensed?
Accreditation is not required and not having it doesn’t mean a hospice isn’t good, but if the hospice has it, then you can rest assured a third party has looked at the hospice’s operations and determined they come up to a reasonable standard of care.
What is the expectation about the family’s role in caregiving?
See if what the hospice expects from family members is consistent with what you’re able to provide.
Are there limits on treatment currently being received?
Is there anything currently being done for the patient that this hospice would not be able to do?
Can the hospice meet your specific needs?
Mention any concerns the family or patient have about care and ask how they will address those concerns.
Does the hospice offer extra services beyond those required?
Some services fall in a gray area. They are not required by Medicare but may be helpful to improve the comfort of a patient. An example is radiation and/or chemotherapy for a cancer patient to reduce the size of a tumor and ameliorate pain. Some hospices would not be able to afford to do this but others with deeper pockets could.
How rapid is crisis response?
If the family needs someone to come to the home at 3AM on a Saturday, where would that person come from? What is their average response time?
What are the options for inpatient care?
Patients being cared for at home may need to go to an inpatient unit for management of complicated symptoms or to give their family respite. Facilities can vary from the hospice having its own private inpatient unit to leased beds in a hospital or nursing home. Visit the facilities to ensure that they are conveniently located and that you are comfortable with what they offer.
How are patient/family concerns handled?
Is there a clear process for sharing concerns with appropriate hospice staff and making sure they are addressed?
What kind of bereavement services does the hospice offer?
Types of grief support can vary widely and may include individual counseling, support groups, educational materials and outreach letters.