Essential Factors to Evaluate in Hospice Care Decision-Making: A Guide for Families

When family members get sick, people do everything to help them recover and feel better. They accompany their loved ones to checkups, and the hospital, and encourage their loved ones to undergo therapy. But, in spite of best efforts to care for sick family members, the illness can progress into late stages that treatments may no longer help.

Hospice Care

Hospice Care

If this happens, you can turn to hospice care agencies to ensure family members obtain continuous care and comfort near the end of life. Infants, young adults, and even the elderly in the family who are expected to live six months or less can benefit from the physical, emotional, social, and even spiritual services that hospice care provides. They can receive consistent quality care at home, in assisted living quarters, or they can choose an inpatient facility under the supervision of a team of hospice professionals.

Aside from ensuring patient comfort, hospice care also supports caregivers and provides grief support after the passing of a loved one.

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There are 4,300 hospice care agencies across the United States and choosing can be a difficult decision. When faced with numerous options, family members need to consider several things to ensure that loved ones receive quality care and that family members can cope with imminent loss.

Choosing a Hospice Care Provider

Hospice care is an option family members can explore after a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, Alzheimer’s dementia, HIV, kidney failure, or severe heart and lung disease. In choosing how family members will spend their final days with grace and dignity, doctors and family members can consider the following:

  1. Services and Facilities Offered

Hospice care aims to promote patient comfort and quality of life. It allows the management of symptoms of the disease with medication and treatments to alleviate pain. Hospice care providers across the country offer services that meet medical, emotional, and spiritual support through a team of professionals.

  • Medical Services: A team of medical professionals provides patient-specific care, with regular visits from a case nurse manager and a hospice doctor. On-call nurses are also available during the weekend or for late-night emergencies. The hospice also provides medical equipment such as a wheelchair, oxygen, and adult diapers. It may also offer radiation treatments or physical and speech therapy to ensure patients benefit from a caring environment.
  • Home-Health: Nursing aides also visit the patient two to three times a week and assist with hygiene. They can monitor medication compliance and report to case manager nurses if care plans need to be modified to address the patient’s condition. On the other hand, hospice volunteers provide help with household chores and offer companionship. They accompany patients on walks, read books, or do other activities that allow the latter to relax and mingle with others.
  • Emotional Services: Hospice care entails the employment of medical social workers to assist patients and their caregivers. They help patients manage stress and deal with the emotional aspects of death and illness. This is why according to OneSource it’s important that you completely trust the agency you work with. Medical social workers also help patients live life to the fullest and prepare them for the inevitable. The social workers can provide music and art therapy to manage stress, while massage can alleviate pain and enhance mood. Other hospices allow pet visits to make patients feel connected. Hospice social workers also provide support to caregivers and family members. They empathize with the challenges of caregiving and offer them resources that will improve their abilities to care for loved ones. They also extend assistance to family members at the time of death and continue to do for 13 months or more to help them cope with loss.
  • Spiritual Services: Aside from emotional support, a hospice care team also includes a chaplain who can provide spiritual guidance and comfort at this difficult time. Clergy members help patients understand death as a necessary phase of mortality and provide loved ones with peace of mind. Chaplains also lead religious rituals for patients and their families.
  • Respite Care: Hospice care should address patients’ needs and goals, including services to support the individuals who care for them. Watching over a loved one with a terminal illness is a demanding job and it’s easy to succumb to caregiver burnout when caregivers bear this responsibility alone and work with limited resources. Certain hospice care providers have inpatient facilities for patients while caregivers or family members take a much-needed break to destress and recharge. They can take a few days of knowing that family members will be cared for in their absence.
  • Specialized Services: Apart from providing the services mentioned above, hospice care must also provide additional benefits to care for patients with complicated medical conditions. Staff must be trained and certified to handle seriously ill patients, and they should have access to equipment and facilities for emergencies or specialized care.

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You can also look for hospice care agencies that are culturally sensitive and inclusive. Asians, Latinos, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, veterans, Jewish, and LGBTQ have their own cultures and traditions regarding the end of life that the hospice should know and understand.

  1. Location and Accessibility

The hospice care’s location is also another factor to consider.  While there are instances when hospice care can be done at home, there could be instances when inpatient care is more suitable to ensure continuous care for loved ones.

If in-home care is not possible, you can choose a nearby facility so that you can often visit. Do a quick search on the hospice care agency’s site, or give them a call to check if their services are available in your area.

You should also consider the hospice’s ability to respond to emergencies or concerns. Their contact numbers must be active, and you should be able to connect with a representative 24/7. On-call nurses should live close to their patients to immediately attend to patients outside of regular hours or during weekends and holidays.

  1. Accredited by Organizations

Entrusting the final days of your loved one to others is a tough decision to make. Carrying out your loved one’s advanced care directives is both a privilege and a responsibility that you would need to ensure that the hospice you choose employs well-trained and certified professionals.

Look for a hospice care agency accredited by your state or government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP), and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. A certification from any or all of these bodies demonstrates that the hospice adheres to best practices and standards for end-of-life care.

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  1. Endorsed by Medical Professionals

Aside from an accredited status, you can also ask your family physician or a specialist for several recommendations. They may have personal experience regarding hospice care and can give you some options to consider. Ask them about the services the hospice care offers and if in-home or inpatient facilities are available.

You can also ask friends and relatives for suggestions. They may have several hospice care agencies in mind and even have contact information that will help you set up appointments. This method is often more practical as you don’t have to call every hospice care facility.

  1. Insurance Coverage

Payment methods are also important considerations. Check if the hospice care provider accepts payments from Medicare or Medicaid and honors veterans’ benefits or private insurance. You can also ask if it accommodates charity care for patients without medical insurance or if it offers subsidized care.

It’s helpful to know how much coverage your loved ones receive so that you’re prepared for possible out-of-pocket costs. You can also ask if medications, equipment, and facilities are included or if you would need to pay for them instead.

The Selection Process

The considerations mentioned above can help you narrow down your list to suit you and your family member’s needs for end-of-life care. Talk to your loved ones about how hospice care can benefit you, and then work together on how you can select the most suitable arrangement for your family’s situation. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Obtain Contact Information

List down phone numbers or email addresses of several hospice care agencies. Send them a message about your inquiry or call them to meet with a hospice care representative. You can also ask if they offer free consultations without any obligation to choose the provider.

  1. Prepare a Questionnaire

Create a list of questions to ask hospice care representatives. This can be about the services they offer, care arrangements, mode of payment, and other information to help you with your decision regarding entrusting loved ones to hospice care.

  1. Meet with Representatives

Set up an appointment with the hospice care representative. Include your sick loved ones in the meeting when possible. Their role is vital in the discussion and the decision-making process.

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  1. Make a Decision

After several meetings, phone calls, or emails, you can then use your list to evaluate various hospice care agencies. You can tick off requirements or focus on your loved one’s goals. Involve everyone in the decision, and ensure that everyone understands how hospice care will be delivered and how the hospice’s services can supplement everyone’s responsibility for consideration.

  1. Notify Chosen Hospice Care Provider

Inform your chosen hospice care provider of your decision, and set up arrangements for when their services can begin. Prepare all necessary documents, such as the physician’s endorsement for hospice care and insurance documents. You can also choose to include the healthcare power of attorney (HCPA) to inform hospice care professionals about your loved one’s directives when it comes to resuscitation efforts or treatment preferences.

Making the Most of Hospice Care  

Hospice care can happen at home or in inpatient facilities. It provides supportive services to patients and their caregivers. You and your loved one can benefit from these services if you:

  • Connect with Hospice Care Professionals

While you may not personally care for your loved one in assisted living or inpatient hospice care settings, you can still receive regular updates from your loved one’s care team through visits, phone calls, text messages, emails, or chat messages. You can also ask them to modify care plans to suit your family member’s needs and goals. Talk to them about your concerns and ask them how you can ease the loneliness or discomfort your loved ones are feeling.

  • Access Necessary Resources

If you choose in-home as a hospice care arrangement, you need to know everything there is to alleviate your loved one’s pain. Take advantage of caregiver training that the hospice provides, or ask staff and volunteers to improve your skills.

  • Welcome Respite Care as an Alternative

Caring for loved ones with late-stage illness can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. As you need to be your best self to provide quality care, you have to make time for yourself and get enough rest. You can consider respite care a welcome alternative to give you some time for yourself or let family members enjoy doing activities aside from taking care of loved ones.

  • Accept Grief Support

Hospice care emphasizes the importance of time. Aside from ensuring patient comfort, hospice moving services also use this opportunity to prepare loved ones for the inevitable. Although no amount of counseling can prepare family members, the bereavement services they offer can help you overcome the loss.

The death of a loved one doesn’t mean the end of hospice care, as it now turns to console surviving family members. While others may desire privacy at such a difficult time, accepting grief support can help you and others mourn and recover in time.

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The decision to avail of hospice care can be a tough one to make, especially when it requires looking for one that is most suitable for your loved one’s end-of-life needs. While it serves as a welcome alternative for family members who no longer desire aggressive treatments, there are several things you need to consider to ensure seriously ill family members can live the remainder of their lives more comfortably.

It’s also helpful to note that the decision to enter hospice care is beneficial for patients and their families. These advanced care agencies offer supportive services that strengthen the bonds among relatives and celebrate their life together long after they pass on.




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