What Do I Need to Know About Hospice Care?

What Do I Need to Know About Hospice Care?

Like hospice, palliative care is designed to relieve suffering and empower patients. However, palliative care can be used by any patient with a serious illness—it doesn’t require a terminal prognosis to qualify.

Hospice does require a terminal prognosis and is a more intensive service for when an illness has advanced.

AARP’s recent article, “How to Find a Quality Hospice,” explains that hospice care in America is most commonly provided in the patient’s home—or in a long-term care facility where the patient already lives. The team will visit frequently.

“The ultimate goal for hospice care is to take in the patient and family, hold their hand and provide all the care they need,” says Jennifer Kennedy, senior director, regulatory and quality, for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. That includes leaving the family with a belief that they did right for their loved one. “We only have one shot to get it right,” she says.

Hospice and palliative care experts recommend, if possible, interviewing several prospective facilities to weigh the type and quality of their services. When you’ve identified several promising hospices and called to request an informational interview, bring a list of questions to help you determine the type and quality of care your loved one will receive there.

The way in which the facility responds to the initial inquiry will be important. If they don’t make the patient and family feel nurtured and listened to from the very first call for help, look elsewhere.  Don’t feel guilty about beginning your search as early as possible, so you don’t make a decision in a crisis. Here are some questions to ask a hospice:

  • Does the medical director make home visits to address complex symptoms?
  • How does the facility respond to patient crises after hours?
  • Does the facility provide all of the levels of care required by the Medicare hospice benefit?
  • Is the facility accredited by one of the national organizations that survey locations based on their quality?
  • Is the staff individually certified as experts in their field by their recognized professional bodies?
  • Do they have a volunteer program and what does it include?