Choosing a quality hospice for you or your loved ones

You can decide which hospice you want to care for you or your loved one and let your physician know which one you prefer.  The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has developed some questions to help you identify factors that may be important to you and your family when selecting a hospice.


Is the hospice medicare certified?

Most hospices are certified by Medicare and are therefore required to follow Medicare rules and regulations.  This is important if you to receive hospice care as part of your Medicare/Medicaid coverage.


Has the hospice been surveyed by a state or federal oversight agency in the last five years?

You should ask when the last survey was and if any deficiencies were noted and if so, have they been resolved.


Is the hospice accredited by a national organization?

Several organizations accredit hospices, surveying them to ensure they meet quality standards.  Hospices are not required to be accredited but accreditation can be a reflection of its commitment to quality.


Does the hospice conduct a family evaluation survey?

Many hospices ask family members to complete a brief evaluation of their services after the death of a loved one.  Ask for their most recent scores so you can see how previous patients and family members have rated their services.


Are clinical staff(physicians, nurses, social workers) certified or credentialed in hospice and palliative care?

There are several credentials that hospice professionals can achieve based on their knowledge of hospice/palliative care and their educational experience.


What services do volunteers offer, and if requested how quickly will a volunteer be available?

Volunteers can provide a variety of services including friendly visits, light household chores, running errands, personal care, etc.  If you want a hospice volunteer, be sure to ask how quickly one can be assigned and how they match volunteers to meet your needs.


Will staff come to the home if there is a crisis at any time of the day or night and on weekends?  Who is available to make the home visit (nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains)?

Hospice staff are available by phone to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  However, some hospices offer limited in-home support on nights and weekends, while others are able to send staff out to a patient’s home no matter when a crisis arises.  Frequently a nurse is the best person to make a visit if it is a medical crisis, however sometimes the crisis is best handled by a physician, social worker, chaplain or another member of the team.


How many patients at any one time are assigned to each hospice staff member who will be caring for the patient?

Some hospices assign a certain number of patients to each staff member and may be willing to share that information with you.  That might influence your decision to receive care from a hospice.


How quickly can the intake/admission staff come to begin the admissions process?  Is someone available at nights and weekends?

Some hospices are able to begin the admissions process and have someone begin hospice services at night or on weekends.  If you are referred to hospice late in the day or on the weekend, a hospice’s ability to start services quickly might be very important.

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