Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Choosing
a Hospice Provider: A Nursing Perspective
By: Virginia A. Bradley, former R.N, B.S., C.C.M
1. Waiting too long to call hospice
Most people want to live as long as possible. Some people believe by delaying the call to hospice they might live longer. Participating on hospice does not shorten length of life, in fact a person may live longer as they have proper pain control, and a team of heath care workers who are familiar with providing the best care possible for the patient wanting palliative or comfort care.
2. Thinking they can handle the patient at home without support
In my 17 plus years of experience, I have seen too many loved ones trying to do everything themselves rather than have professionals with years of experience assist them. When you wait too long to secure additional support frequently, the situation becomes a crisis and is much more difficult to bring under control.
3. Thinking you cannot handle the patient at home
Many people fear that they are unable to take care of the patient at home. With appropriate instruction from our healthcare experts, the interdisciplinary team, equipment, support to obtain supplies and medications, and 24-hour on-call support to assist with concerns and transfers should they be necessary, their care becomes easier for you. In many cases, it is much easier to take care of them at home than having to visit them in a facilities. Too often family members work too hard to do everything themselves. In doing so, they risk burnout and are often unaware of the many services that the hospice program can provide.
4. Worrying that the services are not affordable
Medicare and Medicaid pay for hospice care 100%. You may qualify for Medicaid and not be aware. Our team of social workers will assess this for you and help you with the application if necessary. Most insurance programs provide hospice care at 100%. Our intake team is happy to investigate your benefits for you, and then pass that information along. Additionally, we can offer other means of financial options.
5. Thinking that once you are on hospice, that is it.
Hospice doesn’t decide how long someone lives. It never has, and never will. We don’t have that kind of power. According to medical guidelines, if your hospice diagnosis follows a statistical course, you probably have a very serious illness that will require extensive medical management.
In every healthcare institution, there are guidelines. The difference with hospice is rather than being in a formal setting, the patient is in their home or extended care residence. Thus, we are able to respect their wishes. It is important that the patient get the support they need and avoid situations that increase the risk of feeling panic, or dealing with uncontrolled pain, etc. With advanced care, these symptoms can be managed early, diminished, and usually avoided.
In addition, we never forget that people do beat the odds. When they do we are just as excited about that as they are!
6. The importance of having support close by, when you think you may not need it.
Too often people do not proactively plan for the unexpected. People who are driving and doing daily activities for themselves sometimes believe that the support of hospice is not needed. Yet when situations arise at 3:00 a.m., it is helpful to have someone to call who has the knowledge and authority to implement preplanned doctor’s orders, give advice, assist with transfers if medically necessary, visit you at your residence in the wee hours, or initiate continuous care. It is even better when you know the staff and the staff know you and your caregivers. This allows us to customize your care in advance. Ask anyone who has used hospice and they will tell you, “peace of mind is priceless”.
7. Not asking how many of the staff members are certified
Everyone has staff. Inquiring how many of them have advanced certification is important and shows the level of commitment to excellence. The industry average is XYZ. Agape Hospice Care headquartered in GA has 64.5% (2015 stats) of their staff holding advanced certifications.
8. Feeling uncomfortable with welcoming healthcare personal in your home and the concerns that go with it.
We understand this concern. Occasionally, we have the same feeling when we think about going into a new home. What keeps us moving forward and what we invite you to consider; is that we are ordinary people with industry expertise. Our goal is to provide support to the patient and their caregivers to live each day as fully and comfortably as possible. This is why we do what we do. More importantly, this is what we choose to do. No matter which home we are in, you are not a stranger to us.
Our mission is to care about and for people. So it is more important than ever, to get involved with hospice early. This will provide you with the opportunity to get to know your healthcare providers, evaluate the service, feel comfortable with your privacy concerns, and make choices based on informed decisions. Initially, we may be perceived as an intermittent visitor stopping by to asses your specific circumstances. This is usually a better position than being suddenly transferred to the hospital in a chaotic situation where no one knows you or your caregivers, understands your personality or knows your current medical history. It is proven that people do better at home than in an acute care hospital or facility. “Why did we wait so long?” are the words we hear daily.
9. Selecting a hospice provider based on where the in-patient unit is located
In most cases, patients want to stay home and families want to be able to visit at a time of their choosing, prepare the patient food, avoid themselves eating out of a vending machine and stay by their loved one’s side. We believe that the care should come to you. If it is medically necessary hospices are required to provide 24-hour a day continuous care in the home, assisted living, or senior residence. In addition, all hospices either have their own free standing in-patient units with private suites, or rent a beds in a hospital or nursing homes where you can be transfer if medically needed, yet there is nothing like being in your own environment.
10. Understanding who the owners are and their mission
We are nursing and family owned. Our leaders are masters prepared for and caring for the patients and families are their number one priority. For-profit hospices are able to move quickly on decisions that are best for the patient. Sometimes people think that having a non-profit status is better, yet they usually are not aware that ALL hospice companies are reimbursed EXACTLY the same way. If approved, hospice companies receive the same reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, as well as most private and military insurances. Non-profit is a tax status and while some hospice providers choose to focus part of their effort on large fundraising events, we choose not to. For-profits, like non-profits focus their effort on provide palliative care services for patient and families, making sure the patients and their family needs come first. So what is the difference again you ask? Some hospices choose not to go through the extensive process to become Medicare certified and be annually audited.
Many for-profit hospices also have a foundation, to assist with covering care when there is no funding available. Members of the healthcare team have many options when it comes to where they choose to work. As the only nurse owned and family led hospice in the State of Georgia, we are able to attract the best of the best; as they understand by our actions that we are on a mission, reaching higher to serve you.