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Guidelines for Selecting a Hospice

When there are multiple hospices in a community, it makes it more challenging to make the right choice. Although the general philosophy of hospice care is similar across hospices, all hospices are not created equal. Criteria you may want to evaluate as you interview or select the hospice to provide care for your loved one (or for someone you are referring for hospice care) should include: a reputation of distinction, standards of excellence in caring for the client, the care that can be provided by all disciplines for routine and urgent needs, a bereavement program that provides options for families and caregivers, and a mission of compassion.

  • Is the hospice Medicare certified and state licensed? (the latter, if applicable)
  • When was the last time the hospice was surveyed by a State or Federal oversight agency? What were the results of the survey?
  • Is the agency accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations?
  • Is the hospice a member of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization or a State Hospice Organization, and does it comply with its Standards for Hospice programs?
  • Are they an accredited charity by Charity Navigator?
  • How many years has the hospice been serving your community?
  • Can the hospice provide references from professionals, such as a hospital or community social workers, who have used this agency? Ask for specific names and telephone numbers.
  • How flexible is the hospice in applying its policies to each patient? Does the hospice accept patients on respirators? On chemotherapy? Receiving radiation therapy? Provide blood transfusions? etc.
  • Does the hospice create a plan of care for each new patient? Is the plan carefully and professionally developed with the patient, family and staff (and the facility in which the patient resides)?
  • *Does the hospice provide home health aide services? Are the aides employed by the hospice or are they from a contract agency? (When a hospice employs aides, it demonstrates their personal investment in the provision of this service.) How is the amount of aide time determined? If the amount of aide time is not adequate to meet a family’s needs, what steps does the hospice take?
  • Can you call the hospice twenty-four hours/day to make a referral and speak with a staff member? If the call is answered by an answering service, do they page a staff member for you? Try calling the hospice, during off hours, to test their response time. Do they convey an attitude of caring, patience and competence? Do they sound attentive to your needs and concerns?
  • How quickly after making a referral can the patient be evaluated by the hospice nurse?
  • Will the nurse visit at any time of the day or night? Have the hospice describe under what circumstances a nurse will visit during the night or on a weekend. How far away is the nurse on-call located? Will the nurse visit if a facility makes the request for assistance or reports a change in status?
  • With what facilities does the hospice contract to provide inpatient care?
  • Under what circumstances does the hospice provide continuous care? (This is shifts of nursing and aide service for a minimum of eight hours.) Are the continuous care staff employees of the hospice, through an agency contract or both?
  • What quality of life enhancing services that are NOT mandated by the government are provided by the hospice? Example: music therapy, massage therapy, pet therapy, etc.
  • What services do volunteers provide? How many volunteers does the hospice have? Have the volunteers received special training related to patients residing in nursing homes and/or other facilities?
  • Is the hospice medical director board certified in hospice and palliative care? What is the role of the medical director?
  • How many nurses are certified in hospice and palliative care?
  • What bereavement services are available? Individual counseling? Bereavement groups? Are there special services for children? What bereavement services are available to the staff at nursing homes, group homes and assisted living facilities?
  • How does the hospice ensure that quality care is provided?
  • Who can you call with questions or complaints? What is the procedure for resolving issues?
  • Does the hospice conduct a family evaluation survey?
  • Does the hospice own or operate a care facility to provide home-like care in the event the person cannot be cared for at home?
  • If hospital or nursing home care becomes necessary, with which one(s) does the hospice maintain contracts?
  • Is the hospice a for-profit or not-for-profit organization?

We hope that you find this guide useful. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 845.634.4974.