Exploring Hospice Care Options
When the time comes to choose the best hospice care for your aging loved one, you may feel unprepared or overwhelmed about making the best decision for you and your family.
Here are some things to keep in mind when exploring hospice care options:
What is Hospice?
Hospice is end-of-life care for individuals in the final stages of an incurable disease. With a focus on quality of life over length of life, this patient and family-focused service is not aimed at finding a cure, but instead offers relief for disease-related symptoms while promoting dignity, comfort and quality of life during an individual’s final days.
Finding Hospice Care
Many communities have multiple hospice providers, so the task of selecting an agency belongs to the individual’s family. While this involves some legwork, it's a valuable use of your time. If possible, discussions about hospice should take place early enough so that the patient can be involved in the decision.
While physicians or hospital discharge workers may initiate a conversation about hospice options, family members can also initiate the conversation. Other referral sources include local organizations, such as the American Cancer Society or the Visiting Nurse Association. Your state’s department of health and social services or regional hospice organization may also provide a list of licensed care agencies. Your place of worship, friends and community members who have received hospice care are also helpful resources.
Choosing Hospice Care
Selecting hospice care involves a mix of logistical and personal factors. Begin by identifying agencies that are accredited, certified and licensed by a nationally recognized group. For example, the Joint Commission -- an independent organization which assesses health care programs -- is an invaluable resource for identifying high-quality organizations and services. Determine how long a particular agency has been in existence, and be sure to check professional references: a good agency should be happy to provide them. Other places to consult? Your local Consumer Bureau or the Better Business Bureau.
You should also determine what types of services are provided and by whom. For example, different hospice programs offer different levels of support to family members and caregivers, varied physician interactions, and alternate methods for keeping patients comfortable. And while most hospices don’t have their own inpatient facilities, many have access to beds in hospital units or nursing homes offering short-term care, if necessary. Furthermore, many hospices offer a care plan for each patient; ask to see a sample to determine whether it adequately meets your needs and expectations.
Keep in mind that while some services may be standard, they may vary in intensity depending on the provider. Look for programs which provide “continuous care,” meaning a nurse or other clinician is in the home at all times.
Also, the quality of your hospice home care staff member is just as important as the quality of the agency itself; after all, these professionals will be with your loved one during his/her final days. A face-to-face interview can help you determine whether a candidate is the right fit.
Changing Your Mind
Even with ample research and due diligence, you may be unhappy with your choice. Don't be afraid to change your mind if you're dissatisfied. Your insurance company can help you transition to a new agency without an interruption of services.
Choosing hospice care is one of life’s most important health care decisions. By beginning the process early and evaluating all of the options according to your particular needs, you can find a hospice care provider which offers comfort to your aging loved one -- and your entire family -- in his/her final days.
- Hospice care is not one size fits all; adequate research is essential to finding the right fit.
- Referrals are available from a wide range of sources -- from physicians and hospital workers, to local and national agencies, to friends and fellow community members.
- If possible, this decision should be made by the patient, as well as appropriate family members.
- If you are unhappy with your choice of hospice care provider, your insurance company can help you change providers.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
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