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What Questions To Ask Hospice

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Determining when it’s time for someone with a terminal illness to go into hospice is its own agonizing decision. Next, you have to find good end-of-life care, which can be just as difficult if not more so. How do you choose a hospice care provider?

Here are some important questions to ask when scouting a hospice program:

  • Do you provide extra services?
  • What role do family caregivers play during this difficult time?
  • Are the hospice services certified by Medicare?
  • Does hospice offer bereavement services?
  • Is respite care available?

In this article, we’ll help you navigate the difficult questions you might have about hospice care. We’ll cover everything from whether you can choose your own hospice to tips on interviewing social workers, a potential hospice nurse or the doctors.

Whether you’re a senior going into hospice care or an adult child with an elderly parent or loved one, this article is for you. 

Read our article, When Hospice Is Called In, What Does It Mean?

Can You Choose Your Own Hospice?

Even if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness that has robbed you of your independence, you’ll still want to make decisions about your own life if you can. Is a senior allowed to choose the hospice care they receive, or will this important decision be made for them?

Rest assured, it’s certainly your choice!

Although your doctor might offer hospice care options, that doesn’t mean you have to take them up on their recommendation. If you live at a nursing home or an assisted living facility, you also don’t have to choose the hospice care they suggest. 

Read our article on How To Communicate With Your Parent’s Doctors

When my mom was put under hospice care, we had no idea you could choose a hospice company, so we just accepted the hospital’s assignment. Fortunately, Mom received wonderful home care via a registered nurse who made Mom’s final days much more comfortable.

Your adult children or caretakers could also have opinions about hospice care. It’s ultimately your choice whether you listen to them.

At the end of the day, you need hospice care that you feel comfortable with. It’s also ideal if your health insurance provider has a covered hospice benefit in place, such as those under Medicaid or a Medicare Advantage Plan. 

What Do You Look For In Hospice Care?

Hospice is a palliative care organization . They focus on the needs of hospice patients by providing comfort care and palliative medicine, as well as spiritual care towards the end of a life-limiting illness.

While they do not provide curative treatment, they do provide pain management and basic services, such as medical equipment designed to provide maximum quality of life during a terminal illness.

This can be in the form of inpatient care in a hospital or in hospice houses, or it can be provided in the person’s own home.

Hospice isn’t just for end of life care, though. To learn more, read our article, When To Call Hospice For Elderly Care.

It’s good to know that you can choose what hospice care you’ll receive, but what should you look for as you narrow your options? After all, most people who are seriously considering hospice have never had this care for themselves or others, so they’re not sure what to expect.

Here are some of the services that hospice care should provide.

24-Hour Care

Your adult children might provide for you even as part of hospice care, but if they require more support or help, they need to be able to rely on hospice anytime. After all, medical emergencies don’t care what time it is or what day. 

The hospice care you select should be available to help you or your caregivers whenever they need it, even if it is at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

Locational Care

You probably don’t spend all your time in one place, so you need hospice care that works for your life.

Whether you’re at the hospital, the doctor’s office, an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or elsewhere, the hospice you select should be able to provide patient services to you, regardless..

Care Based On Condition

Not everyone who enters hospice care has the same health predicaments.

Read our article, When To Call Hospice For Dementia.

Even though hospice is associated with end-of-life care, some hospice services offer what’s known as palliative care.

This pain-relieving care is more useful for the beginning stages of a disease or illness, but even in more advanced stages, you can still receive pain medications, as well as an array of comfort therapies.

These might include holistic treatments such as music therapy or massage therapy, and so on.

Support Resources

As difficult as it is for you to be in hospice care, it’s hard in a whole other way for your loved ones such as adult children or your spouse or partner. The hospice care you select should offer resources for your loved ones, including psychological and spiritual support and grief support services.  

What Makes A Good Hospice?

Lots of hospices might provide the above services, but how do you know you’re choosing high-quality hospice care for you?

Here are some things you want to look out for. Combining this with the next section on interviewing for hospice will help you choose exceptional service.

High Customer Satisfaction Scores

Customer satisfaction scores will mostly come from the caretakers or loved ones of those within hospice but are sometimes available from the elderly themselves.

Just like you wouldn’t buy a product online before consulting the reviews, you need to read reviews and testimonials when determining which hospice care is best for you. Check the customer satisfaction scores too, as they can be very telling. 

Hospice is a delicate type of service, so negative reviews and low customer satisfaction scores should hold more weight. If enough people complain about the service they received or the lack thereof, then that’s an overt sign that you need to keep looking. 

Certifications 

The hospice team members should have certifications to prove their specialty in hospice and palliative care. One such certification is the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse or CHPN, but there are plenty more.  

The other certifications are:

  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing Assistant or CHPNA
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator or CHPCA
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Licensed Nurse or CHPLN
  • Certified in Perinatal Loss Care or CPLC
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse or CHPPN
  • Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse or ACHPN

According to nursing resource Advancing Expert Care, nursing staff can obtain their certification through the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center or HPCC. 

Although the staff at hospice care needn’t have every certification on the list above, they should have at least one. 

Full-Time Employees

The hospice you choose should also have full-time staff and not just hospice volunteers.

The entire roster of doctors, nurses, and specialists don’t have to be available at the same time, but you at least need some medical experts there to provide care or answer questions when needed. 

Compassionate, Knowledgeable Staff

Due to the nature of hospice care, the staff that provides such care must be gentle and compassionate. If you or your adult children or caretakers have questions, the staff should be able to answer these without delay. 

How Do You Interview For Hospice?

Your adult children or caretakers might interview for hospice care on your behalf, or you might decide to come along if you’re in good enough health.

It’s not a bad idea for you to meet the doctors and nurses who might become your caretakers, if not during the interview process, then at some point later.

The interview might occur at a hospital or another medical facility. It could even take place at the assisted living facility or a nursing home of the senior. Once you sit down and the interview gets underway, it’s time to ask questions.

First, you need to understand who works for hospice as well as their credentials and certifications. Start with the following questions. 

  • How long have you been a registered nurse/doctor?
  • What certifications do you currently have? When do they expire?
  • How long have you been involved in hospice care?
  • What kind of hospice services do you specialize in?
  • How many patients do you see per day?

You can pry a little deeper if you want to understand further still the motivations of the hospice staff. These questions will provide the answers you’re looking for.

  • Knowing that hospice care can be a depressing and difficult job, what made you decide to get into it?
  • What is the most rewarding part of hospice care for you?
  • What makes you want to continue in hospice care?
  • How do you handle stress from the job?

Then you should move on to the types of services available at the hospice care. Try these questions.

  • How many staff members do you have available at any time?
  • Is someone always available to take my call/answer questions/come to see the senior?
  • What services does this hospice care offer?
  • Do you provide any additional services?

You must be clear on health insurance, so make sure you ask what kind of insurance the hospice care services would fall under, the cost of services (if your health insurance doesn’t pay for it all), and whether additional services are free. If that’s not the case, then you need to be clear on what those services cost.

Although it’s not easy, you should ask some questions pertaining to the senior’s end of life and even post-death. Here are some questions to add to your list.

  • What, in your opinion, is a peaceful death? How do you provide that to your patients?
  • What is your policy for the family when you realize a patient is close to death?
  • If the family can’t be there when the patient dies, when do you notify them of the death? How?
  • Does your hospice care offer bereavement services of any sort? If so, please describe them. 

Conclusion 

Hospice care might be for seniors who are nearing death, but the care itself is not a death sentence. Rather, hospice is about providing a senior with a good quality of life to make their last days or months more comfortable. 

Now that you know how to choose the right hospice care, you can look forward to fewer stressful days ahead. 

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