“No one should face a terminal diagnosis alone, and families should not be left without help. VNA Hospice Care was the compassionate friend we needed.”
Loving Wife of a VNA Hospice Care Patient
If you are a hospice patient, you have a choice in determining your hospice provider. Both federal and Texas laws require that all individuals receiving hospice and home care services be able to choose their care providers. Especially when asking for recommendations from healthcare professionals and counselors, it is very important to remember, as the patient, you have the choice, and the decision regarding which hospice provider you use is entirely yours to make.
Researching information and knowing your options is a must when considering a hospice provider. Start by looking for opinions from a variety of sources. Ask family members and friends if they’ve used hospice services. Your doctor, nurses you may know, other healthcare professionals, social workers or clergy are probably all familiar with hospice to some degree.
Even though you can always compare different providers’ brochures and websites, sometimes it’s simpler just to call them. Speaking directly with staff members can often give you the best sense of their attitude, professionalism and scope of services offered.
Before Contacting a Local Hospice:
- Talk to family members and doctors about your possible choices, thoughts and concerns.
- Get information about the hospice provider’s services.
- Understand your insurance and Medicare benefits and how hospice services are paid for.
- Have an Advance Directive in place that authorizes someone to make decisions for you if it becomes necessary.
Questions to Ask
When calling or visiting a potential hospice provider, be sure to ask the following questions.
- How many years has the provider been serving the community?
- Is the provider a community-based agency with local headquarters?
- What types of payments are accepted?
- Does the provider have literature describing its services, costs and funding?
- Is there a Care Coordinator on staff you can talk to?
- What percentage of key employees (directors, nurses, aides) are agency staff vs. contract labor?
- Do the patient and family share in planning care?
- Can the same care providers be expected each visit?
- Who comprises the care team?
- Is an evaluation of the patient’s home healthcare needs required? Is there a written care plan for the patient?
- When are caregivers available?
- Is there a nursing supervisor on-call 24 hours a day?
- What is the frequency of home visits?
- What is the approach to pain management and medication?
- How is communication handled?
- How are primary caregivers supported?
- Is bereavement and grief support provided? If so, ask for details.
- What is the process for problem solving and complaint resolution?
- What response time can be expected, and what procedures will be followed for after-hours questions and concerns?
Oversight & Patient Rights:
- What is the policy regarding Patient/Elderly Rights?
- Does the provider adhere to the Patient Self-Determination Act?
- What is the provider’s nondiscrimination policy?
- Can the provider ensure patient confidentiality?
- How is quality of care and services monitored?
Certification & Licensing:
- Is the provider certified by Medicare?
- Is it licensed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services?
- Is the agency certified by The Joint Commission?
The Care Plan
Also, ask if the hospice develops and distributes a written care plan to all service providers for complete coordination of care. The patient and close family members should also receive copies of the care plan, listing specific duties, work days and hours, as well as the contact information for the hospice service supervisor.
It is wise to look into hospice programs well before you need one. Write down your expectations and compare what you learn to determine which hospice’s methods best match. Also ask about support programs for caregivers and if in-patient services are available.