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Your Checklist for Choosing Hospice

May 1, 2021

Your Checklist for Choosing Hospice

Written by Pete Brunnick, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region President & CEO; co-authored by Laura Hampton, SPHR, SHRM-SCP Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region Chief of Staff
Choosing a hospice can be a daunting task when your loved one has a serious illness. Conversations should start as soon as you know the illness is terminal. With more than 4,700 unique hospices, there are many choices. You may not know what to ask, or even where to begin.
What is Hospice Care?
Hospice is a holistic form of compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness. Care is not just in the last few days of life. Hospice staff visit in the hospital, a skilled nursing or assisted living facility, your home, or a Hospice House. The patient may stay under hospice care for months, weeks or days.
Hospices use a team approach with physicians, nurses, social workers, and more, with special expertise in pain management and emotional support. The goal is to help each person die pain-free and with dignity.
Are all Hospices the Same?
Definitely not. Each hospice is an individual organization and may differ in the approach and services. When it comes time to choose, make sure you ask:
Does the hospice operate a hospice house? When pain and symptoms require greater care, a hospice house provides 24-hour, comfort-oriented care. A good hospice house should provide a warm atmosphere where patients and families feel like they are at home, instead of in a hospital.

How quickly can the hospice respond? A timely response should be the number one priority. Having multiple locations within the area is imperative to excellent patient care. Make sure the provider has a licensed office within 60 minutes or less of your home or the patient’s location.

What is the after-hours and on-call practice? A decline can frequently come in the middle of the night. A dedicated team should be available at any time (including nights and weekends).

What specialized services are offered? Only select hospices offer disease-specific programs that cater to those with certain illnesses such as dementia, advanced lung disease, or more. Others provide programs for Veterans or children.

Is the hospice a ‘not-for-profit’ or ‘for-profit’? Since Medicare provides benefits, many for-profit businesses started hospice programs. Yet many still prefer a not-for profit where all fundraising proceeds go directly toward patient care. Stand-alone hospices also focus exclusively on hospice care, and are not just part of a larger business that offers other health services.

Is the hospice accredited? While accreditation is optional, most reputable hospices have earned deemed status by a respected national body. Accreditation verifies a rigorous standard of care by a third party.

What grief care services are offered? A hospice with a rich grief services program can be beneficial for those left behind. Look for individual and group grief counseling, as well as programs for children and teens.

When it comes to end-of-life care, these are important questions to ask to ensure that your loved one gets the very best care at the most crucial time of their life. You will not regret doing your homework to find the best program tailored to your needs.

Pete Brunnick, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region President & CEO
William Sweezy
(704) 965-2868