Families making decisions about hospice care may feel rushed or ill-informed about their options. Finding the right agency for end-of-life care requires clear conversations among family members and with medical professionals.
When you understand your own goals and priorities, conversations with doctors and hospice providers are more productive. Some patients value awareness more than eliminating all their pain. Patients may want to realize a dream trip, while others cherish family time in the comforts of home.
Let your voice be heard. A written list of questions will help you focus your thoughts. Family situations will change during end-of-life care. Ask how the plan adapts to your needs.
Medicare and other insurance plans do not provide round-the-clock in-home care. Be sure to ask how often hospice staff will visit.
- What home medical equipment and personal supplies are provided?
- How will you manage pain and other symptoms?
- Will Medicare cover hospice services or medications we need?
- What staff will visit and how often?
- What if we need emergency care?
- What family support services are offered?
- Is the staff experienced with specific illnesses?
- Are there support services for veterans (PDF, 360 KB)?
- What staff qualifications or training do you require? RNs? Aides? Volunteers?
- Is care available after business hours and on weekends?
- What if we're not happy with nurses or other staff?
- If we need inpatient care or respite care, what are our options?
Doctors, hospital discharge coordinators and home health nurses may have experience with hospice agencies in your area. They are good sources, but the final choice is yours. Web searches and online finders may also help you narrow down your options.
- NAHC Home care and hospice locator
- Hospice providers from NHPCO
- Compassus locations finder
- Printable list of questions for providers (PDF, 340 KB)
- How to choose - From Hospice Foundation of America
Medicare requires a standard list of services from all Medicare-approved hospice providers. While services are similar, a hospice may have more experience with a specific medical condition.
Hospice agencies may open their programs to independent accrediting organizations. These organizations measure a provider's care and business practices against industry and Medicare standards. Hospice providers are not required to be accredited, but accreditation does offer an un-biases assessment of quality.
The three major accrediting agencies for hospice and palliative care programs are:
- Community Health Accreditation Program
- The Joint Commission
- Accreditation Commission for Health Care
All Compassus hospice locations have earned Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) accreditation.
If you're not satisfied with your care, Medicare and insurance providers enable you to transfer to a new hospice. You can also decide to end comfort care at any time and return to medical treatments for an illness.