Choosing a Hospice: 10 Questions to Ask Before Deciding
When a loved one is facing a terminal illness, it will likely become necessary to choose a hospice provider to make sure they are receiving the level of care they need. But, while all hospices are required to offer a base level of services and care to their patients, each hospice approaches these services differently. Though your search can begin with an online directory, you should always make sure to schedule interviews with the facilities you’re interested in to ask questions aimed at evaluating which facility will be right for your loved one. Here are some questions you should ask during a hospice interview:
10 Questions to Ask During a Hospice Interview
1. What licenses and accreditation does the hospice have?
Hospice programs must comply with state licensure requirements in order to deliver care. In addition, some hospices choose to be accredited through the Joint Commission (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, or JCAHO), the Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP) , or another third-party organization that is willing to attest that a hospice meets defined quality standards.
2. Is the hospice Medicare-certified?
Medicare will only cover hospice costs at accredited facilities, so if you choose a facility that is not Medicare-certified, you’ll need to seek other methods of payment for hospice care such as a life insurance loan.
3. How often will hospice staff visit my loved one?
Medicare requires a registered nurse to visit hospice patients at least once every two weeks. Some hospices offer more frequent visits from nurses as well as visits by aides, social workers, and chaplains. If you feel once every two weeks won’t suffice for your loved one, make sure to ask the hospice for a schedule or work to plan a visitation schedule that works for you.
4. What emergency support does the hospice offer?
Are nurses, chaplains, and social workers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week? How quickly can the hospice respond to requests for after-hours visits or trips to the emergency room? Make sure to ask what emergency support the hospice provides as services may vary across providers.
5. Does the hospice offer extra services and how are they charged?
Some services are not required by Medicare but may improve a patient’s comfort, such as radiation and/or chemotherapy to shrink a tumor and ease a cancer patient’s pain. How are those services paid for? Does the hospice work with volunteers to offer services like massage, reiki, or group therapy? Sometimes these premium services can help you decide if the hospice is right for your loved one and ensuring their comfort.
6. How are patient and family concerns handled?
Will hospice staff regularly discuss and routinely evaluate your loved one’s pain and symptoms? Is there a clearly defined process for discussing concerns, including escalation to a supervisor if necessary?
7. What are the options for inpatient and respite care?
If your loved one requires inpatient care, will they go to a hospital, to a nursing home, or to the hospice’s own inpatient unit? And if you or another family caregiver becomes exhausted and needs respite care, will your loved one be moved to an inpatient bed or receive continuous care at home?
8. How does the hospice provide end-of-life care?
Does the hospice allow your loved one to make end-of-life choices such as voluntarily stopping eating and drinking? If necessary, does the hospice provide palliative sedation to keep your loved one unconscious and comfortable until passing?
9. What bereavement services does the hospice offer?
Can your family receive individual counseling or meet with a support group, and for how long after your loved one passes away? Having a supportive setting to discuss the feelings you’re experiencing can be a key part of dealing with your loss in a healthy way.
10. What makes this hospice different from other hospices?
Does the hospice have a religious affiliation? What programs does the hospice offer to help patients celebrate their lives and enjoy the time they have left?
By carefully interviewing your options for hospice providers, you and your loved one can choose the hospice that will best respect your priorities, honor your loved one’s end-of-life care choices, and support you and your family in the last months of your loved one’s life. For more questions to ask hospice providers, see Compassion & Choices full hospice questions list.
Looking for Hospice Care Funding?
If hospice sounds like the right choice for your loved one, but you’re worried about financing hospice care, consider Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living Program. The Funds For Living Program helps patients leverage their life insurance policies into money that can be used for end-of-life care while preserving funds for their beneficiaries in the future. If you feel Fifth Season may be able to help your family cover the costs of hospice care, contact us today or call 866-459-1271 for more information.