VITAS’ KATHLEEN KASHOW: Get the Checklist: Choosing a Hospice Provider

VITAS support groups provide information, guidance to those experiencing grief and loss

Choosing a hospice provider is one of the most important decisions you will make for yourself, a loved one, and your family. By law, every hospice program must offer the same basic services to patients and their families. How can you be sure you’re choosing the best one? 

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Choosing a hospice provider is one of the most important decisions you will make for yourself, a loved one, and your family. By law, every hospice program must offer the same basic services to patients and their families. How can you be sure you’re choosing the best one? 

Keep these factors in mind when choosing a hospice provider to ensure you receive the professional, compassionate end-of-life care you and your family deserve.

■ Evaluate the provider’s history and reputation. How long has the provider been in business? Does it hire its own employees to provide care or contract with other agencies? What do other patients and families say about their experiences with this provider? 

■ Check the provider’s certification, licensing, and payment policies. Is the hospice Medicare-certified, licensed, and accredited in your state? Is it certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a We Honor Veterans program? Does it accept Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, and most private insurance coverage for hospice care? Does it provide charity care to patients with limited financial resources? 

■ Obtain details about the depth and breadth of care you and your family will receive. Does the program create an individualized care plan? Does the hospice assign an interdisciplinary team to each patient: nurse, physician, aide, social worker, chaplain, bereavement specialist, and volunteer? How frequently do team members visit? Do they educate family members and caregivers? 

■ Ensure that the program provides all four levels of mandatory hospice care. These include hospice care at home (wherever you call home); continuous care up to 24 hours per day (per Medicare guidelines); inpatient hospice care (when symptoms can no longer be managed at home); and respite care (up to 5 days) for caregivers.  

■ Ask about timing, emergencies, and specialty care. How quickly can hospice care start? Are patients admitted 24/7, including after hours, weekends, holidays? Does the provider offer a 24-hour hotline to answer your questions and respond to crises?  

■ Assess the provider’s ability to care for seriously ill or high-acuity patients. Can it care for patients who require complex modalities or have more than one chronic disease? Does care honor the cultures, traditions, beliefs, and needs of specific populations (e.g. veterans, LGBTQ, Black, Latino, Haitian, Asian, Jewish, etc.)? Does it provide palliative care? 

■ Explore supportive services. Does the program provide integrated services like music therapy, massage therapy, pet visits, etc.? Can team members help with advance directives and advance care planning?  

■ Pay attention to your impressions. Were the representatives you spoke with empathetic? Were they good communicators? Did they answer all questions to your satisfaction? 

Learning about end-of-life care options can transform a difficult time into a “good death.” Collect information and ask the right questions to make sure you choose the best hospice provider for your family. Ensure that interactions, experiences, and memories will be positive and heart-warming for years to come. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen Kashow is general manager for VITAS in Brevard County, Florida. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com

Kathleen Kashow is general manager for VITAS in Brevard County, Florida. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com.
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