How to Choose a Hospice Program



September 21, 2020

Hospice care aims to treat patients with dignity throughout the final stages of their life. It is a great option for those who would like to pass away in a pain free way while being cared for by compassionate professionals. 

Finding hospice care providers or programs that best meet your needs may take some time and searching, but it’s time well spent. 

Finding a Hospice Care Provider

When a patient is initially referred to hospice care, they are usually given a list of local hospice agencies to choose from. All hospice agencies generally provide the same basic services as they work within the guidelines created by Medicare. This may leave you wondering, “Why does which hospice provider I choose matter?” 

There still may be differences between providers that might make a particular one a better choice for you over others. The best way to decide which provider to choose is by comparing them. Medicare’s Hospice Compare provides lists and ratings of hospice agencies near you. 

Questions to Consider when Choosing a Hospice Agency

As with any healthcare decision, you should be as informed as possible in order to know that you are making the right decision for your and your loved ones. When choosing a hospice program, there are a number of things you might want to consider asking. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Is the hospice program Medicare-certified?

Medicare-certified programs have to meet approval for certain minimum requirements for patient care and management.

  • Is the hospice nationally accredited?  

This designation lets you know that the agency or facility meets certain quality standards. While accreditation isn’t required, it can be a clue to the agency’s commitment to quality.

  • Who makes up the hospice care team, and how are they trained or screened? 

Experience counts for a lot, but having the credential indicates specialized study in palliative medicine and/or nursing.

  • How quickly is a plan of care developed for the individual? 

Some hospices can begin the admissions process and start hospice services within a few hours — even at night or on weekends. Others may only provide intake during normal business hours. Depending on your loved one’s situation, a hospice’s ability to start services quickly might be very important.

  • Is a primary caregiver required? 

Ask if the hospice requires you to have a primary caregiver as a condition of admission. If so, ask about responsibilities that are expected of the primary caregiver, such as if they or someone else needs to be with the patient at all times.

  • How are hospice care services provided after hours?

  • How does the hospice respond to an emergency? If an urgent need arises after hours, will the person who answers the phone be from some type of external service or will it be someone from the hospice’s dedicated staff? 

Be sure that your middle of the night calls are not overlooked or dropped by an answering service.

  • Are hospice costs covered by insurance or other sources, such as Medicare? 

  • Does the agency explain your rights and responsibilities as a patient?

 Ask to see a copy of the agency’s patient’s rights and responsibilities information.

  • What are the hospice's visiting hours? 

Family visits are typically encouraged. Each facility will have its own visiting hours, and depending on the facility, family members may be allowed to spend the night with the patient.

Decisions About Hospice Programs

You and your family should look for hospice providers early in the care of an advanced illness, while the patient has the strength and ability to help make the decision. Making the decision to transition you or your loved one to hospice care can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is often accompanied by confusion, with little understanding of available options or how hospice actually works.

If you have any questions on how to choose the right hospice program or if hospice care is the right course of action for you, connect with a trusted Healthcare Advisor today.