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By making patients comfortable with pain medications, they can spend their final days, weeks or months focused on unfinished business. That may include anything from end-of-life planning, final conversations with loved ones or perfecting their putting technique on the golf course. Knowing how to choose the right hospice program for their loved one can be stressful for families.
Remember, you’re not alone. There are many people who have gone before you. Just like you, they’ve wanted to find caring, compassionate facilities and care providers to ease their loved ones’ final days.
Here are some steps that can help.
Get advice. Doctors, friends and anyone who’s had family members in hospice care can be a wealth of information. Ask them if the hospice was responsive and attentive to their loved one’s needs and wishes. What services are offered? Can patients get care at home or only in a facility? Is their recommendation based on a business relationship – maybe the doctor is on staff or the program is run by the hospital. Or is it based on the quality of care, support services and patient experience? Any insight can be helpful.
Visit an inpatient hospice. An in-person tour will let you see if the facility and staff meet your expectations. Ask about their process to move patients from home to inpatient hospice care and back.
Consider the wishes of your loved one. While it can be very helpful that you are researching hospice facilities and services for your loved one, consider their wishes. Don’t forget to ask what he or she wants. Keep their goals in mind while visiting with hospice providers.
Check the staff. Is it large enough to meet the needs of your loved one and family? What if your loved one isn’t comfortable with their assigned caregiver? Will it be easy to make a change? How quickly can a team member respond if a patient needs new pain medications? Get clear answers about their policies.
Explore their support programs. Does the hospice offer grief counseling and other support programs for surviving family members both during and after hospice?
Remember, the move to hospice care isn’t set in stone. If a patient's health improves, hospice care can be paused and treatment resumed. There's no reason to be afraid of hospice. It is designed to deliver compassionate care and peace of mind to individuals facing the end of life and their families.
Originally published 3/3/2015; Revised 2023
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