If your community has more than one hospice organization, how do you know which one is right for you? How can you know anything about them?
One way to find out is by calling the hospices in your area and finding out about the services they offer. You can call the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s HelpLine at 800-568-8898 but it can also be helpful to talk to people you trust who work in healthcare or who have received support from a hospice, such as physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy members, and other counselors, friends or neighbors who have had direct experiences with hospice care.
Some specific questions that would be helpful to ask have been put together by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and CaringInfo to help you navigate through the maze of selecting the best hospice for you and your family.
Is the Hospice Medicare Certified?
Most hospices are certified by Medicare and are therefore required to follow Medicare rules and regulations.
Has the hospice been surveyed by a state or federal oversight agency in the last five years?
Ask when the last survey was and if any deficiencies were noted and if so, have they been resolved. Many hospices also ask family members to complete a brief evaluation of their services after the death of a loved one. Ask for their most recent scores so you can see how previous patients and family members have rated their services.
Is the organization a National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) member and does it comply with all aspects of NHPCO’s Standards for Hospice Programs?
Ask if the hospice is a current NHPCO member, if it complies with NHPCO’s Standards and has completed the Standards Self Assessment, and if so, how recently they completed it.
Is the hospice accredited by a national organization?
Several organizations accredit hospices, surveying them to ensure they meet quality standards. Hospices are not required to be accredited but accreditation can be a reflection of its commitment to quality.
Does the hospice own or operate a care facility to provide home-like care in a hospice residence, hospital or nursing home?
This may be important to you if the care needed is complex and/or family caregivers cannot care for the person at home.
Are clinical staff (physicians, nurses, social workers) certified or credentialed in hospice and palliative care?
There are several credentials that hospice professionals can achieve based on their knowledge of hospice/palliative care and their educational experience. In addition, all volunteers must receive training or orientation on hospice care. Some hospices provide specialized training related to bereavement, pediatric care, nursing home care.
What services do volunteers offer, and if requested, how quickly will a volunteer be available?
Volunteers can provide a variety of services including friendly visits, light household chores, running errands, personal care, etc. If you want a hospice volunteer, be sure to ask how quickly one can be assigned and how they match volunteers to meet your needs.
Will staff come to the home if there is a crisis at any time of the day or night and on weekends? Who is available to make the home visit (nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains)?
All hospice staff should be available by phone to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, some hospices offer limited in-home support on nights and weekends, while others are able to send staff out to a patient’s home no matter when a crisis arises. Frequently a nurse is the best person to make a visit if it is a medical crisis, however, sometimes the crisis is best handled by a physician, social worker, chaplain or another member of the team. Be sure to ask if all members of the team are available in a crisis situation during nights and weekends.
If I need to go to a hospital or nursing home which ones does/doesn’t the hospice worker with?
If you have a preferred hospital or know that you may need to go to a nursing home, it’s important to find out which ones the hospice has contracts with so they can continue to provide your hospice services in this different setting.
What “extra” services does the hospice offer?
All hospices provide expert medical care, emotional and spiritual care, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, volunteers and grief support after the death of a loved one. In addition to these services some hospices offer specialized programs for children, people with specific diseases, “pre-hospice” care for individuals not yet medically-ready for hospice care and other “extra” services that may benefit your family.
How long has the hospice organization been operating in the community?
Again, the length of time in the community may be important to you and your family.
How many patients at any one time are assigned to each hospice staff member who will be caring for the patient?
Some hospices assign a certain number of patients to each staff member and may be willing to share that information with you. That might influence your decision to receive care from a hospice.
How quickly can the intake/admissions staff come to begin the admissions process? Is someone available at nights or on weekends?
Some hospices are able to begin the admissions process and have someone begin hospice services at night or on weekends. If you are referred to hospice late in the day or on the weekend, a hospice’s ability to start services quickly might be very important.
What is the organization’s governance structure?
Whether or not the organization is a non-profit, for-profit, government, faith-based or part of a larger healthcare organization may be important to you and your family.
Additional Links:Click to Learn More About Hospice