By Maureen Rulison
Caregiver Support and Resources
Hospice care isn’t a choice to make lightly. (That’s why, as always, I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are having the conversation early.) Choosing a hospice care provider – to serve the final steps in the aging process – should be an upfront consideration.
Well, there’s a lot at stake. That includes not only your aging loved one’s comfort during the often painful dying process, but also the well-being of everyone on the care partner team. Find a provider who not only offers high-quality medical care, and also compassion and support for both your loved one and your family.
Do your research!
- Some hospice agencies may not have as stellar of credentials or a track record of excellent care.
- Some may or may not be able to mobilize quickly when things take “a turn for the worst.”
- Some may specialize in in-facility care, while others are much better with at-home care.
- Some may better accommodate faith-led or cultural care.
A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Hospice Care Provider
As you can see, choosing the right hospice care provider for your loved one can be a difficult decision for a variety of reasons. Let’s make the right choice.
1. Research & Compare Hospice Providers
Choosing a hospice care provider should start with research. Before entrusting yours or your loved one’s end-of-life care, look for agencies with the proper accreditation and certification in your area. Here in Florida, agencies must first be certified by Medicare and/or Medicaid to cover costs and also by reputable organizations like The Joint Commission, the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) and the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC).
Certifications show that your chosen hospice care provider is qualified to deliver care and eligible to receive Medicare/Medicaid payments, which is often necessary to cover care costs and protect assets.
2. Consider the Hospice Provider’s Experience
It’s important to choose a hospice care provider with experience caring for patients with your loved one’s condition. Ask the provider how many patients they’ve cared for with similar conditions and what their outcomes have been. While the preferred outcome is a peaceful exit, the experience along the way – and afterward – can vary by agency.
Ask for references or read online reviews to get a sense of the provider’s reputation.
3. Assess Communication & Collaboration
Good communication and collaboration are essential between the hospice care provider, the patient, and the family/care partner team. The emphasis in health care these days is on person-centered care, which requires that the patient’s needs are met and that everyone is on the same page. You don’t want a hospice agency that tackles care on its own terms – especially when your loved one has very specific end-of-life wishes.
Ask about the provider’s communication policies and how they collaborate with the patient’s other health experts.
4. Assess the Hospice Provider’s Staff
Hospice staff must be knowledgeable, compassionate and responsive to your loved one’s needs. Ask about the qualifications and training of the medical staff including doctors, nurses and other health care professionals involved in the end-of-life journey. Also ask about the provider’s counselors, social workers, chaplains, clergy and volunteers who may provide support from daily living to spiritual nourishment.
5. Consider the Provider’s Location
Location, location, location. It’s a valid factor in everything from real estate to estate planning. Choosing a hospice care provider near your loved one’s home makes it easier to deliver care – and for loved ones to participate actively. It can also make it easier for the provider to respond quickly in an emergency.
6. Look for Specialized Services
It’s not enough to simply provide comfort at end of life. Some hospice care providers offer specialized services, such as therapy involving music and art (even pets). These can provide additional comfort and support for your loved one and others involved in their care.
Ask about these services and see if any the agency provides may align with your loved one’s interests and preferences. Look deeply at the programs offered. The best hospice care agencies offer a range of services including medical care, pain management, emotional and spiritual support, and care partner education and training.
7. Know the Difference Between Hospice & Palliative Care
Your loved one’s prognosis is everything. A doctor will likely recommend hospice care when your loved one is in declining health and likely has 6 months or less to live. Now, this isn’t set in stone. Individuals may live on for months or even years with terminal illnesses.
There’s a difference between hospice and palliative care, which both provide comfort in debilitating conditions. But palliative care provides similar services when your loved one’s condition could improve.
8. Review the Provider’s Policies
It’s important to review the provider’s policies including their admission criteria, payment options, grief management and bereavement support. Understand the costs and fees and whether your loved one’s insurance will cover them. There may be significant cost differences for types of care delivered, location of services and other variables.
9. Trust Your Instincts
I always advocate for this. If your gut tells you a certain hospice care provider is the wrong choice, trust it. You should feel comfortable with the provider and confident that they will provide excellent care and support during this difficult time. If you have any doubts or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask questions or consider other providers.
Let’s Choose the Right Hospice Care Provider. Caregiver Support & Resources Can Help!
Choosing the right hospice care provider for your loved one is among the most important decisions of the life-care planning process. It’s often difficult to discuss, but the conversation is INCREDIBLY important. With the right research and planning, you can find a provider who offers great care that’s right for everyone’s needs.
If you need help, Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC has over 25 years of experience with all aspects of life-care planning and team building, including hospice referrals and patient advocacy for individuals with terminal illnesses like dementia and cancer. We’re happy to light the way.