The Hospice Interview Process:
Key Questions to Ask Before Selecting Your Hospice Provider
With so many options available, finding the best hospice provider for your loved one can be overwhelming. On the one hand, all hospices are required to offer a base level of care and services to their patients. On the other, every hospice approaches these services differently and while some providers go above and beyond for their patients, others do only what is required.
To help those who are seeking the right fit, two members of the Crossroads Hospice team –Terri Doughty, Vice President of Inpatient Services, and Megan Henson, Assistant Executive Director in Kansas City – offer key questions everyone should ask before selecting a provider.
How often will your staff visit?
Every hospice patient has a unique set of needs and every hospice will approach direct patient care and caregiver support in its own way. Ask questions to understand specifically how the provider will deliver care.
“With any hospice provider, I’d want to know how often my loved one is going to be seen,” says Doughty. “Someone should be checking on them regularly to make sure they’re ok and that they have everything they need.”
While Medicare requires a registered nurse to visit hospice patients at least once every two weeks, it’s important to find a hospice that will develop a care plan to address your loved one’s individual needs. Crossroads nurses visit their patients at least twice a week, but maintain a schedule that can be customized. In addition to nurse’s visits, progressive hospices like Crossroads ensure aides, social workers, and chaplains are available for visitation as well. This ensures all patient and family needs are addressed, not just the clinical ones.
“It’s important for people to know that as a patient declines, they will be seen more often to ensure comfort is maintained and the necessary support is given to caregivers,” says Henson.
What support do you offer in the case of an emergency?
In addition to offering regular support, your hospice provider should be there to guide caregivers and their loved ones through any crisis that may arise. Nobody knows when an emergency may strike, so it is crucial to find a hospice with reliable, around-the-clock care.
“Inquire about how a hospice runs after traditional business hours,” says Henson. “Dealing with a terminal illness or a loved one who is dying is a full-time situation. Who manages the phone calls? Is the staff fresh and ready to work in the middle of the night? A caregiver should feel confident their hospice is available to help and provide support at all times.”
Some hospice providers will terminate services if a patient visits a hospital emergency room, regardless of the need for that visit. Others, like Crossroads, have a policy of meeting their patients in the hospital to provide support.
“You have to make sure the hospice is going to respond quickly to any emergency phone calls,” says Doughty. “Nobody knows when a crisis will happen and your provider should respond, and report back to you, right away if one comes up.”
How do you provide end-of-life care?
The end of someone’s life is a trying, emotional time. Hospices can offer tremendous support for dying patients and their families, but not every service will be the same. As a patient’s health declines, a hospice provider should be prepared to lend additional support such as alleviating their pain as it increases.
“As a patient declines, the hospice staff should be more involved,” says Henson. “Hospices have varying approaches when it comes to being present at each patient’s side. Seek a provider that maintains high rates for being present at the time of death.”
End-of-life programs and services should also be at the top of the priority list for any consumer seeking hospice services.
“At Crossroads, we have a model of care called Evenmore Care,” says Doughty. “We provide care at the very end of life via a staff member in the home so that we’re there actually up to the time of death. We visit patients sometimes two, three, four times a day so that if there’s a symptom that’s not managed, we can take care of it.”
What makes you different from other hospices?
Making a choice may be confusing. To determine which hospice provider may be best, find out what they do differently.
“Someone interviewing hospices should ask about what other types of services or programs the hospice provides in order to maximize a patient’s end-of-life care experience,” says Henson. “What does the hospice do to encourage their patients to live and love, no matter how much time they have left?”
Hospices can differentiate themselves by offering programs that celebrate each patient’s special life and experiences. Take care to choose a hospice that will take the time to support your loved one as an individual and create long-lasting memories for your family.
“It’s important for families to think about the things a hospice offers apart from clinical care,” says Doughty. “For example, we offer Veteran’s Recognition and Gift of a Day programs, which address more than just the physical needs of the patient. These programs celebrate life.”
Of course, there will be other questions you’ll ask to ensure a personal comfort level with whatever hospice provider you decide to entrust with your family member’s care. The most important thing is to find the provider that offers the level of care that meets your needs. Conducting careful research, interviewing, and weighing the options thoughtfully is the best way to ensure you and your loved one will get the support and care that is deserved.
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