5 things to consider before you start hospice care

4 min read

Should you seek hospice care for your loved one?

  • There are several questions to consider before taking the step to begin hospice care.

  • Consider whether palliative care or hospice care is right for your loved one.

  • Both palliative and hospice care focuses on the patient’s comfort, but palliative care can include treatment to cure their disease as well.

  • Think about whether it’s the right time for hospice—and whether avenues for viable treatment remain.

  • Finally, find out what kind of hospice care your loved one is eligible for and the costs associated with each option.

There may come a time when a loved one’s illness has reached a point where neither the hospital nor you can care for them any longer. When this happens, it’s time to consider hospice.

Hospice is the care someone gets when they’ve reached the final stage of their life, and medications and treatments are no longer effective in curbing disease. It focuses on making sure their final weeks or months are comfortable.

But while hospice is something many people turn to when an illness is in its advanced stages, it’s not for everyone. There are several questions to think about as you decide whether hospice care is the right choice for your loved one.

Is palliative care a better option?

If your loved one is ill, but it’s not time for hospice, palliative care is something worth considering.

Palliative care is similar to hospice care in that they both provide what is known as comfort care, focused on the patient’s quality of life. But unlike hospice care, palliative care can also have curative intent. In other words, your loved one can still be treated for their disease, with the goal of recovery, with palliative care.

Palliative care can transition to hospice if your loved one reaches the point where their doctor believes they will not live more than six months, with increasing focus on making sure they are comfortable up until the end. 

Studies have found that palliative care has been shown to extend the life of those who receive it, compared to those who do not.

You can either ask for recommendations from those you know or search the Palliative Care Provider Directory.

Is this the right time for hospice?

If someone is not expected to live more than six months, then this is the time to seriously consider hospice care. Of course, this decision isn’t just made by one person. It’s collectively made by the person who is ill, their family, and their doctor.

Before opting for hospice, you’ll want to make sure every other approach has been exhausted. For example, if you’ve been told that there are no more viable treatments for the illness, or the patient has decided against further treatment, then it is time to focus on their quality of life and comfort in their final weeks and months.

Because hospice is the last step before someone passes away, it can be a difficult decision to make.

But it’s important to realize that hospice isn’t giving up. Instead, it’s acceptance of what’s to come and the fact that your loved one deserves to be as comfortable and at peace as possible in their final days.

Is your loved one eligible for hospice?

Sadly, not everyone is able to opt for hospice care. Because of this, before you even look into how to sign up for hospice, you’ll want to check the hospice eligibility checklist first.

 You qualify for hospice if:

  •  Your doctor has certified you as terminally ill

  • You have Medicare Part A

  • You sign a document stating you have chosen hospice over other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness

  • You’ve elected the optional state plan of hospice services if you’re on Medicaid

Which hospice care provider should you choose?

Once you’ve decided hospice care is the right choice and the doctor has agreed that your loved one qualifies, the first step is to get recommendations.

Your loved one’s doctor or other family and friends may have suggestions if they’ve been down this road before. You can also look up hospice organizations in your state.

Next, you’ll want to meet with providers. These people will come to your loved one’s home or assisted living facility, to make an assessment and answer any questions you have.

ake sure the hospice is accredited by either the Joint Commission or Community Health Accreditation Program. Although it’s not necessary that the hospice care be accredited in regard to the quality of care, it does mean that a third party (unrelated to accreditation) has decided that the hospice in question meets the standards of care — just something to keep in mind.

 Because you’re likely to have a lot of questions, prepare ahead of time with a list so you don’t leave anything out when asking the provider for details on the process and what you can expect. It’s during this assessment, if everyone is onboard with hospice, that admission into the program can occur.

If the patient is unable to authorize this decision, then whoever is legally able to authorize it (like a spouse or adult child), will fill out and sign the necessary paperwork. Once all the documents have been taken care of and filed, hospice care can start immediately.

The patient may elect two 90-day periods of hospice followed by an unlimited amount of 60-day periods, should they live beyond what the doctors expected.

What’s the cost of hospice care?

Medicare-certified hospice means you pay nothing for the care itself. When it comes to prescriptions for pain, the copayment doesn’t exceed $5 unless there’s a situation where your medication isn’t covered by the hospice benefit. If that’s the case, the hospice provider should contact the plan.

However, you may need to pay 5% of the Medicare-approved amount, and room and board are not included.

If you don’t have Medicare, cost and hospice coverage will depend on your insurance provider.

Choosing hospice care is a big decision and one that no one wants to make, but it’s sometimes inevitable. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the implications of your decisions before you make any choices and start signing paperwork ●