When it comes to choosing an end-of-life care provider, you have plenty of options. While most providers offer a standard level of basic care as required by Medicare, there may be specific therapy options and personal considerations that work best for your loved one.
Starting Your Search
Every family has different priorities when choosing a hospice care provider. You can start your search by asking your loved one’s doctor or caseworker for a list of hospice agencies in the area. Friends with family members in hospice care might also be able to make a recommendation.
As you develop your list of hospice agencies, you should start thinking about the type of hospice your loved one needs. Hospice care can occur in a nursing home-style setting or at home. If your relative wants to live those remaining weeks or months in a familiar environment, in-home hospice care might be your best option. If your loved one expects to spend time in a hospital or assisted care facility, seek out a hospice provider that can send medical professionals and caretakers to those places.
Researching Your Hospice Care Options
Once you’ve decided on the type of hospice care that works for your family and narrowed down your options, you should do more research into the specific agencies on your short list. Call a few different hospice agencies to ask questions about the services they provide and their overall philosophy of care. Talking to someone at the hospice agency directly can also give you a feel for whether they have a caring and compassionate staff.
Some things you should ask about when you call for more information include:
What kinds of medical professionals work for the hospice, and can these professionals travel to where your loved one lives?
What is the experience level of the medical professionals and staff members who provide hospice services?
What levels of care does the hospice offer, and can they handle specific cases, such as dementia or patients with lung disease?
Does the hospice have special therapy programs to help patients work through the complex emotional changes at the end of life?
Is care available 24 hours a day?
Does the hospice create individualized care plans for each patient?
Does the hospice program provide support services to help family members learn to operate in-home medical equipment?
Does the hospice provide bereavement and grief counseling for relatives navigating the death of a loved one?
Beyond making personal calls, you can also research hospice options in other ways. Check online reviews to see what others have said about the hospice agency, and ask if the hospice care provider can supply references who can tell you about their experiences with hospice care.
Considering Special Services
Every individual in hospice care has different needs, so you may have to seek out a care provider that offers the specific services your loved one requires. Patients who have lost some motor function may need regular visits from a physical or occupational therapist. An older relative who has trouble eating or who has become picky about food may need nutritional therapy.
Your loved one also deserves to continue engaging in enjoyable experiences throughout the hospice experience. Look for a hospice provider that offers a variety of therapy options and activities. If spirituality is important to your loved one, hospice care that provides religious or spiritual counseling may be a good choice. Patients who previously participated in sports or musical activities may want a hospice that offers palliative care or music therapy.
Finding the best end-of-life care provider for your loved one takes some effort, but with planning, you can help ensure that your relative — and everyone in your family — has a positive experience during those final days.