Choosing the best hospice organization for your needs or a loved one is a crucial decision. As a death doula, I’m not a guide. I’m not there to fix anything. Rather, I’m there to support. However, if I offer advice about anything, it’s usually to suggest calling hospice sooner rather than later.
Hospice organizations are often overworked and understaffed. Calling them before your pain or discomfort becomes unmanageable is vital. It allows them to get to know you, your medical history, ways to manage your symptoms and adjust as needed.
Beginning Your Search
When interviewing hospice teams, here are some steps to help you pick the right hospice in your area.
Research and Gather Information
I encourage my clients to start by researching hospice organizations in their area. Use online resources, ask for recommendations from healthcare professionals, friends, or family members, and check local directories. Do you want a for-profit or non-profit? Religiously based or secular? Now is the time to decide.
Check Accreditation and Certification
Ensure that the hospice is accredited and certified by relevant health authorities. In the United States, for example, Medicare-certified hospices meet specific quality standards.
I help my clients look for reviews and testimonials from other families who have used the services of the hospice. We find this information online or by asking the hospice directly for references.
Visit the Hospice
If the organization has a hospice house or a floor/care center at a local hospital, schedule a time to visit in person. This gives you a firsthand look at the facilities, staff, and overall atmosphere. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns you may have.
Staff Credentials and Training
I usually inquire about the qualifications and training of the hospice staff. The team should include medical professionals, social workers, spiritual counselors or chaplains, and trained volunteers. If you’re working with a death doula, ask about how they include doulas or family/friends in a unified care team.
Understand the range of services offered by the hospice. A good hospice should provide comprehensive care, including medical, emotional, spiritual, and bereavement support. They should also provide medical equipment such as hospital beds at no extra cost to you.
Communication and Support
My clients and I assess the communication style of the hospice staff. They should be transparent, empathetic, and responsive to questions and concerns. Good communication is crucial during this challenging time. Choose the best method of communication for you. This might be texting, emails, or phone calls.
Availability of Services
Ensure that the hospice can provide the necessary services when you need them. Some hospices may offer 24/7 support, while others offer specific hours of operation.
Policies and Procedures
We review the hospice’s policies and procedures before making a choice. This includes understanding how they handle emergencies, what support is available to family members, and how they manage the transition to hospice care.
Cost and Insurance
Clarify the costs associated with hospice care and whether your insurance covers these expenses. Discuss financial arrangements upfront to avoid any surprises later.
Also consider hospices that are actively involved in the community and have positive relationships with local healthcare providers, end-of-life doulas, hospitals, and other support services.
Ask for Recommendations
As a death doula, I support my clients asking healthcare professionals, such as primary care physicians or specialists. They may have insights into the reputation and quality of local hospice organizations.
By thoroughly researching and considering these factors, you can make a more informed decision about the hospice organization that best meets your needs or the needs of your loved one.
Does Medicare Cover Hospice?
Yes, hospice is a benefit covered by Medicare Part A, and eligible individuals can receive hospice services if they meet certain conditions.
Here are some key points I encourage clients to consider:
To qualify for hospice coverage under Medicare, you must be eligible for Medicare Part A and have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less, as certified by a hospice medical director and the individual’s attending physician. Don’t wait until the last minute! Get them on board when you stop curative care.
Medicare’s hospice benefit covers a range of services, including medical care, nursing care, counseling, prescription drugs for symptom control and pain relief, durable medical equipment, and support services for the individual receiving hospice care and their family.
Hospice care is provided by a team, which typically includes doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, counselors, and trained volunteers.
It’s been my experience that the best interdisciplinary teams involve end-of-life doulas, and we all work together to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the individual and their family.
Under Medicare, my clients receiving hospice care typically pay little to no out-of-pocket costs for hospice-related services. Medicare covers the costs of hospice care, including medications related to the terminal illness and respite care for caregivers.
Hospice care can be provided in various settings, including the individual’s home, a hospice facility, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility.
If you or a loved one are considering hospice care, click here to contact the Medicare helpline or visit the official Medicare website for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding coverage and eligibility.
Questions to Ask When Choosing A Hospice Provider
- Choosing a hospice provider is an important decision, and asking the right questions can help you make an informed choice.
- Here are some questions my clients and I ask potential hospice providers:
- Are you accredited by a recognized accrediting body, and are you certified by Medicare?
- What are the qualifications and training of the hospice staff, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and volunteers?
- What services does the hospice provide?
- Is the hospice available 24/7 for emergencies, and how do they handle after-hours support?
- How does the hospice communicate with families, and what support is available to both the patient and their loved ones?
- Can you provide information about your policies and procedures?
- How is the care plan developed, and how often is it reviewed and updated?
- What bereavement support services are offered to families after the patient’s passing?
- Can I visit your facility and meet the staff?
- What are the costs associated with hospice care, and how does billing work?
- How is the hospice involved in the local community, and do you have relationships with other healthcare providers?
- Can you provide references or share testimonials from other families who have used your services?
- How does the hospice handle crises or unexpected changes in the patient’s condition?
- How does the hospice ensure care is tailored to the individual’s needs and preferences?
Asking these questions and discussing your specific concerns with potential hospice providers will help you make an informed decision that aligns with the needs and values of the patient and their family.
Why Choose Hospice Sooner Rather than Later?
The research is clear, choosing hospice sooner rather than later offers benefits for individuals and their families facing a terminal illness.
Improved Quality of Life
Hospice care focuses on enhancing the quality of life for individuals with a terminal illness. When my clients choose hospice earlier, they receive comprehensive support to manage symptoms, control pain, and maintain comfort.
Holistic Care Approach
My clients benefit not only from the physical aspects of care but also their emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial needs. Early involvement additionally allows for a more holistic approach to care.
Better Care Planning
Early engagement with hospice allows for the development of a comprehensive and individualized care plan. This evolves, ensuring that my client’s changing needs are consistently addressed.
Time for Relationship Building
Building a relationship with the hospice care team early on provides a sense of trust and familiarity. This relationship also comforts both my clients and their family members, fostering a supportive environment.
Education and Guidance
Hospice professionals provide education and guidance to my clients and their families about the terminal illness, treatment options, and what to expect. Early involvement allows for informed decision-making and better preparation for the future.
Emotional and Spiritual Support
Hospice care includes emotional and spiritual support services, which can be invaluable during the challenging journey of a terminal illness. Early involvement allows you to access these resources sooner.
Hospice care often means a reduced likelihood of hospitalizations. Choosing hospice earlier helps my clients avoid unnecessary hospital stays, allowing them to remain in a more comfortable and familiar environment.
More Time for End-of-Life Discussions
Early engagement with hospice provides more time for important end-of-life discussions. This includes expressing preferences for care, discussing advanced care planning, and addressing spiritual and emotional concerns.
Family Involvement and Preparation
Choosing hospice care immediately after stopping curative care allows families to actively participate in the caregiving process and better prepare for the eventual loss. Families can receive guidance on how to support their loved ones emotionally and practically.
Time to Establish Goals of Care
Early engagement allows my clients to establish their goals of care with me and the hospice team. This ensures that care aligns with their values and preferences throughout the illness.
Access to Supportive Services
Hospice provides a range of supportive services, including counseling, bereavement support, and assistance with practical matters. Accessing these services early can help my clients and their families navigate the emotional and practical challenges of a terminal illness.
In the End
While your decision to choose hospice is deeply personal and depends on individual circumstances, considering hospice care earlier in the trajectory of a terminal illness can lead to a more supportive and comfortable experience for you and your loved ones. It allows for a more proactive and patient-centered approach to end-of-life care.
Need support? Contact me at Anitya Doula Services today.