How Do I Choose a Hospice Program?
If you or someone you love is facing a life-limiting illness, choosing the right hospice program will be one of the most important decisions you make. Studies show that end-of-life patients who receive quality palliative care report higher satisfaction than those who don’t. So during this difficult time, selecting a hospice provider that works to improve their patient’s quality-of-life is key. But finding the right provider isn’t always easy.
At first blush, it may seem that all hospice programs are essentially the same. The Medicare Hospice Benefit act of 1983 established service requirements all hospice providers must follow, but that doesn’t mean hospice care is a commodity. The medicare requirements act as a baseline for care and as a result, there’s still plenty of room for providers to differentiate themselves within the industry. So if you need to choose a hospice program, where do you begin?
A good place to start is with your primary care provider. It’s likely your provider has worked with a number of hospice organizations during their career and can direct you to one they trust. Your friends and family may also be able to offer you referrals based off their own experience. At this point you hopefully have a couple options to pursue further.
5 Questions to Ask Hospice Providers
When you begin speaking with hospice organizations directly, here are a few other questions that may help you make your decision:
- Is the hospice Organization Certified by Medicare? This is a crucial question to ask if the hospice patient is a medicare beneficiary, because the government won’t reimburse non-certified hospice organizations for the care they provide.
- Is the Hospice Accredited by an Outside Agency? Accreditation isn’t required for hospice providers. But it does mean a qualified third-party has confirmed the organization provides a certain standard of care. When doing your research, look for JCAHO or CHAP certifications.
- Do Health Care Professionals Have 24-Hour Availability? If you or your loved one faces a serious issue at 3am, will a health care professional be available to help? This extra support will provide important peace of mind during this tough time.
- Will Respite Care be Available if Needed? In many cases, family members provide the majority of hospice care under the supervision of doctors and nurses. But sometimes this can overwhelm caregivers. Respite service provides caregivers with short term breaks so they can rest and recharge.
- What are the Patient’s Anticipated Out-of-Pocket Costs? While Medicare pays for the vast majority of hospice care costs, some providers may offer additional service which aren’t covered. So comparing potential out-of-pocket costs between different providers may help you make a final decision.
Trust Your Instincts
Perhaps the most important factor in choosing a hospice provider is how they make you feel. Are their employees empathetic and caring? Do they encourage patient choice during end-of-life transitions? Will they be there for the family after the patient has passed away? These questions will probably be best answered through your interactions with hospice staff. So listen to and trust your instincts during these important conversations.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has made available a handy pamphlet of other questions you should consider when choosing a hospice provider, which you can download here. If you live in or around Phoenix, Arizona and have questions about local hospice providers, Southland Hospice would be happy to talk. You can call us anytime at (602)-497-4100 or you can fill out our contact form and we’ll get right back to you. We understand how difficult this time can be for a family, and we’re ready to help.