Choosing a hospice provider can be a complex decision, especially since making the choice to start hospice care is often emotionally charged. In some cases, your physician may recommend a specific hospice foundation or agency. You might also prefer to compare a few different providers to determine the best hospice agency for your needs. Here’s a guide on how to choose a hospice provider that suits you.
Services Provided by Hospice Agencies
Medicare requirements ensure that most hospice providers offer the same basic services, but there may be differences in care philosophy, extra services and specialty services provided for patients with specific conditions. While hospice care is intended for patients with a terminal illness who have ceased treatment and have less than 6 months of life expectancy, patients with a serious illness who don’t meet these specific requirements may qualify for palliative care.
Basic Medicare rules require that hospice agencies provide four levels of care. These include:
- Routine home care for patients with a terminal illness who’ve been diagnosed with 6 months or less to live — this level of care covers symptom management, including pain management in some cases
- General inpatient care for patients temporarily admitted to a hospital or inpatient facility, including care provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if needed
- Continuous home care provided during emergency or crisis events experienced by the patient
- Respite care, which offers temporary 24/7 care in the home or at an inpatient facility to allow family caregivers a break from regular care for up to 5 days
If you’re using Medicare to pay for hospice care, all benefits related to relieving symptoms of the terminal illness are covered. Some specific covered services you might also receive include:
- Nursing care, including 24-hour access to a nurse
- Access to a social worker who oversees your case
- Assistance from a hospice aide
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy is an extreme rarity in hospice
- Dietary counseling and assistance with meeting nutritional needs
- Spiritual counseling
- Bereavement services, including grief counseling, for family members
- Medical equipment and supplies, including wheelchairs, walkers and bed pads
What to Look for When Considering Hospice Providers
Comparing hospice services offered by different providers can seem daunting. Focusing on the following factors may help you narrow down your options.
Accreditation and Licensing
Look for a hospice accredited by the Joint Commission or the Community Health Accreditation Program.
You likely want to contract with a hospice agency in your local area, so narrow your search to those nearby.
If the patient is not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, Three Oaks Hospice accepcts most private insurances.
You may also have specific preferences when it comes to how care is provided and the overall philosophy and mission of the hospice or palliative care provider. Some things to consider that depend entirely on the individual include:
- Whether you want faith-based hospice care
- What type of after-hours services you may need and which providers accommodate after-hours care
- Volunteer involvement in hospice services, which can offer extra opportunities for companionship
Because hospice services are incredibly personal and intimate, finding a provider you feel comfortable with is essential. Talking to members of the hospice team can help you find providers who are compassionate, caring and empathetic. Asking questions during the decision process helps you determine which providers are good communicators, a necessity when discussing end-of-life decisions.
Assessing Your Hospice Options
Medicare can also provide information on how frequently a specific hospice deals with patients having a specific condition, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia. Details about Medicaid coverage are also included.
You might also consider personal recommendations from friends or family members and professional opinions from your medical care team when deciding on a hospice provider. Other places to get information about potential hospice care providers in your area include the following.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)
This organization provides data on hospice and palliative care providers across the United States. There’s a Find a Care Provider tool to help families find local options. This organization also has a helpline you can call for assistance finding hospice providers in your area. The helpline can be reached at 800-568-8898.
State Hospice Associations
Some states keep detailed records of hospice service providers operating in the state. This information can include details about health inspections and any complaints filed against the agency. The nonprofit Hospice Foundation of America offers a directory of state hospice associations. Three Oaks Hospice’s Chief Quality, Compliance and Clinical Officer, Kerry Arp, is the current President of the Board for the Texas New Mexico Organization, another great resource for researching hospices in the state of Texas and New Mexico.
Once you’ve narrowed down a few possible hospice agencies, you can contact those hospice organizations directly to get more detailed information.
Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Hospice Survey
This national survey of families receiving hospice services provides valuable, up-to-date information about specific providers. The survey includes questions about how well the hospice communicates with families, the timeliness of assistance, how well the provider helps with pain and other symptoms, care training for family caregivers and the level of emotional and spiritual support offered. Families opting to fill out the survey also give the hospice a rating and state their willingness to recommend the hospice to others.
Questions to Ask When Comparing Potential Hospice Providers
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few hospice care providers, it’s time to call those providers and ask questions. You might also want to schedule in-person informational appointments with a few hospice agencies. Here are some things you might want to ask when you make those calls:
- Does this hospice accept Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance coverage?
- What basic services are provided by the hospice staff?
- Does this hospice work together with family caregivers and the patient’s doctor to coordinate care?
- Does each patient enrolled in hospice get a personalized care plan?
- Is there specific support provided for family caregivers, such as bereavement support?
- How are after-hours services handled?
- Does each hospice team member provide services at the patient’s home?
- What services do hospice volunteers provide?
- Does the hospice provide training for a family caregiver who wants to learn more about home care or the specific condition affecting the patient?
- Where and how does the hospice team provide temporary inpatient care?
- Does the hospice provider work with specific inpatient facilities or nursing homes?
- Does the hospice arrange for delivery and setup of necessary medical equipment?
- What kind of certifications or licensing does the hospice organization hold?
- What is the process for arranging hospice care, and what happens if circumstances or the initial diagnosis changes?
- What out-of-pocket expenses may be required?
- Will a hospice staff member be on hand during the patient’s death if the death is imminent or soon expected?
- How can a family member or patient contact the provider if there’s a problem or concern about the provided services?
- Can you provide contact information for previous patient families or have someone initiate contact who’s willing to discuss their experiences with this hospice?
Next Steps After Picking a Hospice Provider
Once you’ve chosen a specific hospice care provider, you may need to get a referral from your primary care physician. The hospice organization may be able to contact your physician for this referral.
After getting a referral, set up a meeting with the hospice service provider to get an initial assessment. During this assessment, the hospice representative determines what services are needed and begins to assemble your hospice care team. This team may include a registered nurse, a social worker, physical or occupational therapists, counselors, clergy members, professional caregivers and volunteers.
Hospice services are typically provided in the patient’s home or the home of a relative, so the staff members come to you and there’s no need for the patient to leave home. Part of the admissions process may also include an assessment of necessary equipment and supplies. If you or your family member uses equipment such as an oxygen machine, these can be set up in your home.
Keep in mind that the goal of hospice is to improve the quality of life during the final stages of terminal illness, not to prolong life or hasten death. Finding a good hospice care team helps ensure that you and your family have the support you need during those final weeks and months of life.
Why Choose Three Oaks Hospice?
Three Oaks Hospice reviews speak for themselves – they’re overwhelmingly positive! Our stellar reputation has been earned through dedicated, compassionate service, and our commitment to providing outstanding end-of-life care. Customers who have experienced Three Oaks Hospice have raved about their positive experiences, leaving us a large list of glowing reviews. We can proudly say that we stand tall in comparison to any of our competitors and strive every day to continue providing the very best care available. Find out what experiences others have had with Three Oaks Hospice here.
If your loved one is in need of a hospice provider, reach out to Three Oaks Hospice for hospice care services today.