In recognition of November being National Homecare and Hospice month, here’s some good information about choosing the right hospice provider.

Learning a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness is an emotional experience. In such instances, people tend to have many questions, including what they can do to make their loved ones as comfortable and content as possible.

Hospice care is a solution for many families looking to improve the quality of life of someone dealing with a terminal illness. According to the Hospice Foundation of America, hospice care aims to help people with terminal illnesses live as well as possible for as long as possible. Increasing quality of life is one of the goals of hospice care. The HFA notes that hospice facilities are typically staffed with a host of interdisciplinary professionals who are tasked with addressing the physical, psychosocial and spiritual distress that often confronts terminally ill patients and their families.

Many people are unfamiliar with hospice care and may not know where to begin in regard to finding a facility for themselves or their loved ones. Before hospice is considered, it may be wise to discuss the timing of such care with the patient’s physicians.

The timing of hospice care

The HFA notes that determining when the time is right for hospice care is difficult. Families can discuss timing with their loved one’s physician, but certain factors may indicate it’s time for hospice. The HFA says it’s generally time for hospice when a patient has 6 months or less to live. Patients who are receiving medical treatment but whose conditions are declining rapidly, whether it’s through significant weight loss, cognitive decline or an inability to perform daily activities, may require hospice care. The patients themselves may indicate they are ready to forego treatment aimed at prolonging life, and, in such situations, hospice care can make their remaining days as comfortable as possible.

In addition to ensuring that the timing is right, the HFA offers the following tips to make the process of choosing a hospice facility go as smoothly as possible.

· Seek recommendations. Word-of-mouth can be a great way to find the right hospice facility. The HFA notes that hospital discharge planners or social workers typically have lists of local hospice providers. In addition, physicians often interact with hospice providers, so their insight can be invaluable. Having a loved one in hospice can be difficult for many families, but some neighbors or trusted friends may share their experiences dealing with local facilities when prompted. That insight also can be invaluable.

· Interview hospice representatives. Patients, when capable, or caregivers typically meet with hospice facility representatives to discuss services and answer questions. Prepare questions in advance, and make sure that the visit is free and does not obligate families to choose the provider the person represents.

· Ask the right questions. The HFA recommends patients and/or their families ask a host of questions before choosing a hospice facility. Such questions should pertain to the plan of care the hospice intends to employ; how quickly the facility will get a handle on pain and/or other symptoms; what happens if a patient does not respond; and if there are any services the facility will not provide. Additional questions to ask can be found at www.hospicefoundation.org.

 

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