Frequently Asked Questions
Hospice is a form of care tailored specifically for the needs of individuals and families facing a life-limiting illness. A diverse medical care team works together to manage pain, increase comfort, and support every aspect of a patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health. The goal of Hospice Care is to help people live their last days with respect, peace and dignity.
Most families choose Hospice Care when a loved one is diagnosed with an illness that can’t be cured. We recommend speaking with your loved one’s physician to discuss care options. If they believe that Hospice Care is the right choice, they’ll provide a referral. We are also available to speak with you about care options, and to coordinate with your loved one’s physician. If the patient does not have a physician, we are able to provide a referral. Click here for contact information.
For many, the most comfortable atmosphere is ‘home’. 95% of hospice care is provided in patient homes, but Hospice Care can be provided at the location that is most suitable for each individual and family. We understand that in some situations, a family may need to keep their loved one in a hospital setting. Hospice Care can be provided at the location that is most suitable for each individual and family.
The decision to receive Hospice Care is usually made when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, or has decided to no longer receive treatment for an illness. However, we recommend discussing the possibility of Hospice Care well in advance. The best way to determine if Hospice Care is the right decision is to discuss with the patient’s doctor. If the patient does not have a physician, we are able to provide a referral.
End-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, but it is best for family members to share their wishes long before it becomes a concern. By having these discussions in advance, patients won’t be forced into uncomfortable situations. Advanced planning helps patients make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones. Also discuss with the medical director, and/or admission nurses.
We can be a resource for you, also. We’re available to answer any questions you may have. Click here for contact information.
Most health plans cover Hospice, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Even if an individual doesn’t have insurance, hospice is still an option. We will not turn away any patients who need comfort and care during the last stages of their lives.
We maintain close contact with a patient’s primary care doctor. We want patients to feel as comfortable as possible, so we do our best to ensure they’re able to see doctors they already know and trust.
Our staff works closely with families to coordinate individualized care plans. Our team of experts will schedule visits according to that plan. All supplies that are part of treatment and comfort care are provided as needed. Our staff is available 24/7 to respond to emergencies, answer questions and offer support.
Most hospices have nurses available to respond to a call within minutes, and some hospice programs have chaplains and social workers on call, as well. When appropriate, and if ordered by the physician, we will provide 24-hour care.
Hospice care can begin as soon as the patient’s doctor makes a formal request or ‘referral’. A hospice program representative will make an effort to visit the patient within 48 hours of that referral, providing the visit meets the needs and schedule of the patient, family, and/or primary caregiver. Usually, hospice care is ready to begin within a day or two of the referral. However, in urgent situations, hospice services may begin sooner.
Every hospice patient has access to a hospice volunteer, registered nurse, social worker, home health aide, and chaplain (also known as the interdisciplinary team). The interdisciplinary team writes a care plan with the patient and family that is used to ensure all parties receive the care they need. All visits are based on patient and family needs as described in the care plan, and the condition of the patient during the course of the illness.
Many patients may have pain and other serious symptoms as their illness progresses. Hospice staff receives special training to care for all types of physical and emotional symptoms that cause pain, discomfort and distress. Since keeping the patient comfortable and pain-free is an important part of hospice care, many hospice programs have developed ways to measure the patient’s level of comfort during their hospice stay. Hospice staff works with the patient’s physician to ensure that medication, therapies, and procedures are designed to achieve the goals outlined in the patient’s care plan. The care plan is reviewed and updated frequently to reflect new goals and changes.
Hospice volunteers are available to provide support to patients and their loved ones, including running errands, preparing light meals, staying with a patient to give family members a break, and lending emotional support and companionship to patients and family members.
Since hospice volunteers spend time in patients’ and families’ homes, each hospice program has an application and interview process to ensure each volunteer is well suited for this type of work. Hospice programs also have an organized training program for their patient care volunteers. Areas covered by these training programs include understanding hospice care, maintaining confidentiality, listening skills, identifying signs and symptoms of approaching death, coping with loss, grief, and bereavement support.
Hospice services can be provided to a terminally ill person wherever they live. This means a patient living in a nursing facility or long-term care facility can receive specialized visits from hospice nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers, and volunteers, in addition to the care and services provided by the care facility. The hospice and the care facility will have a written agreement in place.
If the patient cannot stay at home due to an increasing care need, and requires a different place to stay during the final phase of life, a growing number of hospice programs have their own hospice facilities, or have arrangements with freestanding hospice houses, hospitals, or inpatient residential centers to care for patients who cannot stay where they usually live. These patients may require a different place to live during this phase of their life. However, care in these settings is not covered under the Medicare or Medicaid Hospice Benefit. It is best to find out well before hospice may be needed if insurance or any other payer covers this type of care.
Yes. Hospice programs must meet state licensure requirements in order to provide care. In addition, hospices must comply with federal regulations in order to be approved for reimbursement under Medicare. Hospices must periodically undergo inspection to be sure they are meeting regulatory standards, and to maintain their operating license.
Many hospices use tools to determine how well they are doing in relation to quality hospice standards. Most programs use family satisfaction surveys to get feedback on their programs. To help hospice programs ensure they are providing quality care and service, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has developed recommended standards entitled ‘Standards of Practice for Hospice Programs’.
There are also voluntary accreditation organizations that evaluate hospice programs. These organizations survey hospices to find out if they are providing care that meets defined quality standards. These reviews take into account the customary practices of the hospice, such as policies and procedures, medical records, personal records, and evaluation studies. In many cases, the reviews include visits to patients and families who are currently under care of that hospice. A hospice program may request to obtain accreditation from one of these organizations.