What should I know when choosing a hospice for a loved one?

Published: Friday, June 7, 2024
Heather Farrar
Patient Care Manager, Hospice of NGMC

As a loved one nears the end of life and hospice services are recommended, you likely have many questions, concerns, and to-dos. Choosing a hospice may be among them.

While your family member’s primary care provider or another member of his or her care team may have suggested it’s time to seek hospice care, you can choose where your loved one receives that care and which hospice program provides it.

What makes one hospice program a better fit than another? Here are some things to consider.

The basics of choosing a hospice

Hospice is a type of medical care designed to meet the needs of those nearing the end of life. Specifically, hospice services are intended for people who are no longer undergoing curative treatment and who have an estimated life expectancy of six months or less.

Hospice isn’t one size-fits-all. It’s a unique type of care that’s personalized to meet the needs of the patient and the patient’s family members. Just as with other types of medical care, it’s important to find a provider that meets your unique and specific needs and wants.

When you begin the process of choosing a hospice provider, you first want to make sure all providers you’re considering meet the basic requirements. That includes:

  • Being accredited by nationally recognized organizations such as the Community Health Accreditation Partner
  • Being approved and certified by Medicare
  • Being licensed in the state of Georgia (or the state in which you reside)

Beyond these basics, you may want to look into whether a hospice provider has received other recognition for exemplary service, such as awards from Hospice Honors. You can also seek the thoughts of your loved one’s healthcare providers or even your own, who may be willing to provide references for hospice providers they trust.

Questions to ask when choosing a hospice

You’ve done a quick review of each hospice provider you’re considering, and each of them meets the basic requirements. Now what?

When you’re considering a hospice program to care for a loved one, you logically want to find one that feels like the best fit. You may need to chat with representatives from multiple providers to find the right one. Asking these questions can be helpful:

  • What hospice services do you offer?
    Most hospice providers offer the same base level of services, but some providers offer a full spectrum of services, both medical and complementary. Think through your loved one’s health issues and needs, and compare them with the services offered by each provider.
  • Do you also offer services for family members and other caregivers?
    Again, this is an area where some hospice programs excel. In addition to offering care and support for patients, a hospice provider may also offer services specifically designed for those around the patient. This may include grief support for both children and adults, along with other resources and support.
  • Where do you provide hospice services?
    Hospice can be provided in a variety of settings, both inpatient and outpatient. When a person receives care in the “home” setting through either routine home care or continuous home care, home can be wherever the person calls home, including a house, an assisted living facility, or a skilled nursing facility. Before moving forward with a hospice provider, ensure they can offer services in the setting that your loved one chooses.
  • How are care plans created and revised?
    Each hospice patient receives a care plan, similar to a treatment plan. This plan outlines the services that will be received to help the patient physically, emotionally, mentally, and psychosocially. Gather details about how each hospice program creates an initial care plan and how it is evaluated and tweaked as needs evolve.
  • How do you communicate with patients and caregivers?
    Effective, clear communication is essential in any relationship. That includes the relationship between a hospice program and patients/families. Ask about the channels of communication available to you, as well as how you should communicate problems or concerns that require immediate action.
  • How do you handle after-hours and weekend needs?
    A hospice patient’s condition can change quickly, so it’s important to understand how after-hours needs will be addressed. Some hospice programs may have a dedicated afterhours team, while others may have nurses who remain on call to handle emergencies that arise. Other assistance such as social work and chaplaincy may also be available on evenings and weekends.

These questions are only a starting point, but they can help identify gaps between what your family needs and what a hospice provider can offer. By asking specific questions about these aspects of care, you can determine the program that will suit your loved one and family best.

The importance of continuity of care when choosing a hospice

While many hospice services can be provided in the home, what happens when additional care is needed? Many patients can pass peacefully with routine home care. However, there are times where a patient may require a higher level of care.

This can include respite care, continuous home care, or general inpatient care. It’s important to select a hospice that can meet the needs of your loved ones should a higher level of care be required. This information, along with additional quality measures, is available on Hospice Compare website.

Whether your loved one requires more intensive care in a hospital setting or simply needs to see multiple specialists, you need a provider that can coordinate care and help make it easier on the patient and the patient’s family. When you partner with a hospice provider that’s part of a larger health system, you can rely on a seamless flow of care.

At Northeast Georgia Health System, our entire team of providers, along with those at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, collaborate together to offer all patients the exceptional care they need in the end stages of life.

We can also tap into other health system programs and services for patients and their family members, such as support groups. Our mission is to support quality of life in everything we do—and that includes making it easier to access the care and support you need.

Learn more

Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center partners with you and your family to provide excellent care and enhance your quality of life. Call 770-219-8888 or visit our website for more information about how we can help.