What do I do when we decide to use hospice?

Before providing care, hospice staff meets with the patient's personal physician(s) and a hospice physician to discuss patient history, current physical symptoms and life expectancy.

After an initial meeting with physicians, hospice staff meets with both the patient and their family. They discuss the hospice philosophy, available services and expectations.

Prior to service, staff and patients also discuss pain and comfort levels, support systems, financial and insurance resources, medications and equipment needs.

A care plan is developed for the patient. This plan is regularly reviewed and revised according to patient condition.

It is important to know that the patient and family can request a particular hospice or ask for a referral to another hospice serving their geographic area.

In some situations, the patient and family may not have communicated end-of-life concerns with a doctor, but believe the patient would benefit from hospice care. In such a case, it is best to discuss appropriateness of hospice care with the patientís attending physician and request a referral. Some doctors are uneasy bringing up the subject of hospice care and may not want to be the first to start the conversation.

Families or patients can begin a self-referral process through a hospice if the doctor is unable to discuss hospice, or if there is no attending physician available. In this example, a patient or family should contact a hospice that serves the patientís geographic area.

There are more than 4,500 hospice programs in the United States. The majority are certified to provide care under the Medicare benefit, and, in most states, the Medicaid benefit.

The hospice may be based in a county, town or city that is near the patientís home. It is not uncommon for a hospiceís service area to stretch into adjacent counties. If

 

To qualify for hospice admission, a person must be a proper candidate for hospice care. This means that the person is no longer responding to curative treatment options and that the prognosis for life is six months or less if the disease continues its present course

To qualify for hospice admission, a person must be a proper candidate for hospice care. This means that the person is no longer responding to curative treatment options and that the prognosis for life is six months or less if the disease continues its present course.

Some common diseases and conditions experienced by hospice patients include: cancer, Alzheimerís disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, stroke, lung disease, AIDS, and renal disease, among others. Specific diagnostic tools determine the prognosis associated with each disease and/or condition.
* NHPCO National Data Set, 2006.