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Frequently Asked Questions

Considered to be the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury, hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's needs and wishes. Support is provided to the patient's loved ones as well.  At the center of hospice and palliative care is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain-free and with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so. 

What is Hospice Care?
  • You've made multiple trips to the emergency room, and your condition has been stabilized, but your illness continues to progress significantly, affecting your quality of life.

  • You've been admitted to the hospital several times within the last year with the same or worsening symptoms.

  • You wish to remain at home, rather than spend time in the hospital.

  • You have decided to stop receiving treatments for your disease.

Now is the best time to learn more about hospice and ask questions about what to expect from hospice services.  Although end-of-life care may be difficult to discuss, family members should share their wishes long before it becomes a concern.  This can greatly reduce stress when the time for hospice is needed.  By having these discussions in advance, patients are not forced into uncomfortable situations.  Instead, patients can make an educated decision that includes the advice and input of family members and loved ones.
It’s not time for hospice care and palliative instead of curative treatment if you are currently benefiting from treatments intended to cure your illness. For some terminally ill patients, though, there comes a point when treatment is no longer working. Continued attempts at treatment may even be harmful, or in some cases treatment might provide another few weeks or months of life, but will make you feel too ill to enjoy that time. While hope for a full recovery may be gone, there is still hope for as much quality time as possible to spend with loved ones, as well as hope for a dignified, pain-free death.
There isn’t a single specific point in an illness when a person should ask about hospice and palliative care; it very much depends on the individual. The following are signs that you may want to explore options with hospice care:

When is the right time to ask about hospice?

Some other questions to ask when considering a hospice care program:

  • Is the program accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations? This means that the organization has voluntarily sought accreditation and is committed to providing quality care.

  • Is this hospice program Medicare-certified? Medicare-certified programs have met federal minimum requirements for patient care and management.

  • If applicable, is the program licensed by the state? Are caregivers licensed and bonded?

  • Can the program provide references from professionals, such as a hospital or community social worker? Talk with these people about their experiences.

  • How flexible is this hospice in applying its policies to each patient or negotiating over differences? If the hospice imposes conditions that do not feel comfortable, that may be a sign that it’s not a good fit.

  • Is a care plan carefully developed for each patient and their family? Does a nurse, social worker, or therapist conduct a preliminary evaluation of the types of services needed in the patient’s home?

  • How much responsibility is expected of the family caregiver? What help can the hospice offer with filling in job schedules, travel plans, or other responsibilities?

  • What are the program’s policies regarding inpatient care? Where is such care provided?

  • Is there a 24-hour telephone number you can call with questions? Try it to see how the hospice responds to your first call.

Adapted from: Hospice Net

Questions to Ask a Hospice Care Service
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