3 Questions to Ask When Looking for a Hospice Program

elderly woman being taken care of

When you or someone you love is faced with a life-limiting illness, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with information. You have to learn as much as you could about the condition and get the necessary medications, all while juggling doctor appointments. And when you start looking into hospice care, you will find yourself facing a myriad of options, and even an overload of suggestions from doctors, family members, and friends.

To narrow down your options, and make sure that you choose the best hospice, you have to ask the following questions.

Are they reputable?

Reputation is crucial when choosing a hospice. One of the best ways to verify this is by checking if the agency is certified and licensed by a nationally recognized group, such as the Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC), the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (or simply, Joint Commission), and the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP).

Each of these organizations is empowered to administer licensure and certification to hospices in accordance with federal laws, and independently established, discipline-specific standards for care provision.

Another way to check the reputation of a hospice is to ensure that the program has approval and certification for Medicare. Medicare-certified programs are required to meet approval for certain requirements regarding patient care and management. The payment for hospice services tends to depend on the program’s certification or approval.

How do they create care plans?

holding the hand of an elderly

Hospices should offer care plans that are specifically developed for the needs of each new patient. Ask if the hospice develops the plan carefully and professionally, with input from the patient and their immediate family. The care plan has to be written out, and everyone involved should be given a copy. It needs to contain a list of specific duties, work hours or days, and the name and contact details of the person in charge of the patient’s care.

Most hospices have care plan categories depending on the times, duration, and location where care is needed. In Serenity Hospice Care, for example, they can provide care for brief periods when the patient’s needs cannot be adequately met at home or provide “round the clock” care at the patient’s residence, among other options. As the patient’s needs change, the care plan has to be updated, as well.

Are care providers always available?

Staff should be available anytime, day and night, and the hospice has to take your calls regardless of the time of day. Not all hospices have physicians 24/7, but most of them have nurses on staff who are available 24 hours.

Ask about their response time. You should also ask them about the procedure for calling in problems and for making and addressing complaints and concerns. Instead of heading to their office, give them a call first to ask about their services. Assess how the hospice responds to your first call, as it is often an indicator of the kind of care you can expect.

Choosing a hospice care program should not add to the stresses of a terminal condition. Ask these questions to have an informed decision; these are the bare minimum qualities of a good care provider.

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