Choosing hospice care for a loved one can be a challenging task. The choice of hospice provider may have a big impact on a person’s quality of life, and the decision often must be made when an illness is already life-limiting. Although there are many considerations, the process may not be as difficult as it first appears. Medicare guidelines for hospice care help protect patients as hospice decisions are made, and with some preparation, family members and patients can be sure to ask relevant questions, gather pertinent information, and make the right choices with confidence. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a hospice care facility in Oakland County.
Medicare protection and guidelines
Most hospices participate with Medicare, which standardizes a set of basic hospice services. But beyond these basic services, hospice providers differ in ways that might greatly affect some patients, making provider comparison an important step.
Patients and their families may want to start by considering the patient’s insurance provider. With Medicare, a patient’s choice of provider is limited only by his or her location, and there may be many providers from which to choose in the patient’s community. Other insurers may require that a patient choose from a list of preferred hospice providers. Checking Medicare’s website or a private insurer’s list of preferred providers will help narrow down choices and determine which hospice providers should be compared.
One of the easiest ways to determine which hospice providers to consider is by word-of-mouth; asking the opinions of trusted friends and relatives that have had contact with local hospice care providers in the past may help to rule out some providers and move others to the top of the list.
Other sources to consider are online ratings, feedback from current patients or their families, and any information that doctors, social workers, or hospital discharge planners may have to share about a particular hospice provider’s quality of care. Doctors and hospitals may also have lists of recommended providers, and may be willing to share their professional opinions.
Hospice providers in Oakland County must meet all state and local regulations for hospice care, and many additionally choose to seek voluntary accreditation for the quality of care provided. Many hospice programs seek accreditation by the Joint Commission, the nation’s oldest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care, or by the Community Health Accreditation Program, an independent organization that defines and verifies the quality of health care providers. These agencies both measure a provider’s quality of care against set care standards, and certification by these agencies provides an important benchmark for care institutions. However, lack of accreditation does not necessarily indicate that a hospice provides substandard care.
Hospice providers must undergo evaluation periodically to maintain accreditation; to earn and maintain accreditation from The Joint Commission, an organization must undergo an on-site survey at least every three years. When a hospice provider is accredited, it certifies a commitment to providing high-quality care and maintaining safety standards that protect patients and their families.
Once hospice care providers’ reputation and accreditation have been taken into account, the list of local hospice providers may have narrowed to a manageable few. The next step is to conduct interviews with the hospice care providers that remain on the list, so that families and patients can ask questions to be sure that providers can ably meet patient needs.
A hospice provider’s representative should be available to meet with the patient and his or her family or main caregiver to discuss the services hospice provides and to answer questions.
Patients and their families should prepare for provider interviews by listing questions in advance; this will ensure that all questions are asked and adequately addressed. When preparing a list of questions, here are some topics to consider.
- Individualized Care Plans. An individualized care plan is a hospice patient’s map for receiving hospice care. Each hospice patient has individual and unique needs, and an individualized care plan helps a hospice care facility address those, providing a structure for daily services and a plan for collaboration between care disciplines. The plan should address a patient’s condition, abilities, needs, routines, and any challenges. A care plan should be developed in conjunction with the patient and the patient’s family, who should have substantial input. A hospice care facility should have a procedure to review and revise the plan as often as needed.
- Care providers. The question of who will provide care is an important one. A patient and his or her family may want to:
- Determine which staff are available to meet daily needs.
- Develop an outline of the individualized care plan for collaboration between staff members of different disciplines.
- Establish how staff can be contacted on weekends or holidays.
If a resident is transitioning from an assisted living facility in Oakland County to hospice care, he or she may want to ask if a familiar care team will be available.
- Medication and emergency needs. A hospice provider should be able to address questions about medication needs, schedules, and changes, as well as offer a plan for providing emergency services should they be required. If hospice care will be provided at the patient’s home, the provider should be able to articulate the plan for addressing pain or other symptoms that are not adequately managed by current medications, and how inpatient care will be provided if it becomes necessary.
- Transitioning from assisted living to hospice care in Oakland County. If a resident will be transitioning from an assisted living facility in Troy to hospice care, a specific set of questions may arise. In connection with medical providers, an assisted living resident and his or her family will want to determine if future hospice care should be provided at the same assisted living community in Oakland County where the resident currently lives, or at another location. Many assisted living residents in Troy find it comforting to receive hospice care at a familiar care facility, surrounded by trusted caregivers.
Making a decision
When making a hospice care decision, a patient and his or her family should make sure they feel confident that the selected hospice provider understands the patient’s unique needs, and that interactions with the provider will be positive and supportive of treatment goals. Taking some time to learn about facilities in Oakland County can help people make informed decisions about hospice care.