It’s a decision no one wants to make. However, it is one of the most critical in your life (or the life of a loved one). We’re talking about choosing a hospice care provider.
The decision is fraught with emotion, worry, stress, and even fear. It’s an acknowledgment that life will soon be ending, that we’ll be losing someone dear to us, or, if you’re choosing your own provider, that you’ll soon reach the end of your life. Because of that, this is one of the most critical decisions you can make.
Add to that the fact that most people have little or no experience with hospice care providers, and the situation becomes even more confusing and frustrating. We understand the need for clarity, for actionable information to inform your decision-making process. This guide will walk you through what you need to know when choosing a hospice care provider.
Check the Company’s Format
Does the hospice care provider employ its own team members or does the company lease or subcontract workers? It’s always better to work with a company that employees its team members rather than contracting the work out to others. While there are many potential issues here, what it comes down to is accountability for the care provided. In a subcontracting situation, there is no accountability and no responsibility, which isn’t a risk you can take.
Certifications and Licensure
Make sure that the hospice care provider is certified and licensed (you might also hear the term “accredited”). The company must be licensed and certified to provide hospice care within your state. It should also be insured. For companies that work with veterans, certification from the VA is important, too.
Hospice care is rarely paid for out of pocket by the patient. Instead, it is covered by private insurance, or by Medicare or Medicaid. Make sure that the provider you choose accepts your insurance, or is approved by Medicare or Medicaid.
Levels of Hospice Care
Four levels of hospice care should be offered by the provider you choose. Make sure that this is the case. The provider should inform you about their in-home care, intensive home care, respite care, and inpatient care services. Each level differs and provides patients and family members with critical advantages at specific points along a patient’s journey.
Patients and family members are often surprised when they learn that a hospice care provider will only offer certain supplies and equipment. A reputable company should include virtually everything a patient will need, from oxygen tubing to pharmaceuticals, to equipment necessary for them to remain comfortable and free of pain during their remaining days.
Meet with the Doctor
Every patient should have access to a hospice doctor who will provide care during this stage of life. If the patient is ambulatory, they will go to the office, but at some point, the doctor will begin making house calls. The patient must meet with the doctor to make sure they mesh well. Family members involved in caring for the patient should also meet with the doctor. This is important not just to get a feel for the doctor’s demeanor and “bedside manner”, but to ask questions and get information.
Can the Doctor Help Your Loved One?
Each patient’s situation is unique and will demand specific treatments and care plans. However, not all doctors are well-suited to caring for all patients. Make sure that the doctor is a good match for your loved one (or for your needs if you’re searching for a hospice care provider for yourself). Some questions to consider include:
- Can the doctor provide compassionate care?
- Are they well-versed or specialized in your loved one’s condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease or lung disease?
- Does the doctor provide the same level of care regardless of a patient’s age, race, gender, sexuality, or religion?
The vetting process is your chance to make sure you’re hiring an experienced, compassionate, expert team. The only real way to do that is to ask questions. Of course, most patients and their family members are unsure what questions to ask, so we’ve compiled a few of the most important below:
- Once hired, how long will it be before hospice care services are provided?
- Who will be coming to the home initially?
- Does the team treat patients 24/7?
- Is there a 24-hour hotline for emergencies?
- Will a hospice care team member be with your loved one during the time of death?
- Can the team care for patients with more than one disease?
With the right hospice care provider, a patient’s remaining time can be free of pain and discomfort. They can say goodbye to friends and family, find guidance and peace, and live out their remaining time in dignity.