Choosing Hospice Care: The Questions You Must Ask

You’ve likely seen news headlines about elders mistreated in hospice care. Now you are at the critical stage of choosing hospice care for a family member and the decision scares you.

How do you go about choosing the best quality, most affordable, and compassionate end-of-life care for your loved one?

What is Hospice Care?

phoenix arizona behavioral group homesHospice is a form of care for people with terminal illnesses that focuses on making them as comfortable as possible as the end of life approaches. Hospice also provides support for family members who are witnessing the loss of a loved one.

Hospice care in the Phoenix metropolitan area can take place at home or at inpatient settings such as a hospice facility, hospital, or nursing home. For inpatient settings, hospice is provided by a team of medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains. In the home, day-to-day hospice care is delivered by family or friends, with guidance or respite support from visiting healthcare professionals that are available at any time.

Regardless of the setting, hospice care provides for the medical, emotional, and spiritual support of the person who is dying and their loved ones.

Researching Hospice Care in Metro Phoenix

You’re well aware that not all hospice providers are equal. Some will provide high-level, compassionate, and thorough care while others provide less attentive care that can result in negative experiences. To avoid a poor experience with hospice care, and to help you locate quality hospice care for your loved one, consider working with a senior placement counselor who can guide you through the process. If you don’t have senior placement assistance available to you, then you’ll be doing the research on your own.

When researching hospice organizations, you’re likely going to start by gathering referrals from physicians, friends, and family. You’ll visit the websites, request literature, and make appointments to tour the facility/ Or, if the care is to be provided at your home, you will be meeting with the staff who will oversee, coordinate, and provide direct care at the home. The questions presented here focus on circumstances in which you are moving a loved one into a hospice facility. We will examine hospice care in the home in a future blog post.

Essential Questions to Ask a Hospice Organization

You want to ask the same questions of every hospice organization that you are considering for your family member. Some of the basic questions are:

  • What services are offered?
  • What makes this facility different from others?
  • How many staff are on duty? What are the shifts like?
  • How many patients per caregiver?
  • What services are provided as part of hospice care?
  • What services are not covered by the hospice, but are needed for your loved one?
  • How frequent is communication with the family?
  • How is pain management handled for your loved ones condition?
  • What steps are followed in an emergency?

The Hospice Foundation of America (and other industry associations listed at the end of this article) offers a question list and checklist that you may find helpful.

How does the hospice work with medicaid/medicare or other insurance?

paradise valley arizona senior independent living placementThis is one of the most common and most important questions to ask. Most hospice services are certified by Medicare, but it’s best to make sure before signing any documents to establish care. What is covered may vary based on your financial situation, other insurances, and state guidelines. Two good resources to become familiar with are:

Also, you can inquire with the Arizona Ombudsman regarding complaints or concerns about a healthcare facility, including hospice. These resources also can provide data about ratings or point you in the direction of organizations that do quality assurance checks and rate hospice facilities.

How long has the hospice facility been in operation at its current location?

You want to make sure that the facility you are considering has a long-standing presence in the community, is highly regarded by medical/healthcare professionals, and has not had complaints or compliance issues with industry associations.

What is the staff turnover rate?

phoenix arizona memory careHere, you are looking not just at how frequently staff come and go, but for transparency. If a facility willingly shares data with you about staff retention, that is a good sign. If you do receive data about staff retention, make sure you have the chance to interview staff members. Ask them: what do they like about where they work; why have they stayed on staff for so long; or, why did they choose to work for that facility.

How do they monitor and measure the quality of care and staff performance?

Again, you are looking for transparency of information. You don’t need them to provide a great deal of detail. However, you DO want them to provide enough detail that you can sense they take the performance and training of their staff seriously–and they work hard to make quality assurance checks and improvements when needed.

  • How does upper management support and “take care of” their staff?
  • Have staff, or the facility, received any accolades for services, staffing, etc.?
  • What are the requirements for staff education, certification and ongoing training?
  • Do they receive sufficient time off, breaks during the day, or other opportunities for “caring for the care provider?”
  • How often and in what ways are staff evaluated?
  • Have there ever been complaints about the staff? How was this handled? (If you have a complaint, you want to know what the process is for having it addressed).

What out-of-pocket expenses should I expect to pay?

We mention this again here, even though we did note (above) that hospice is a covered service under Medicare. However, there are criteria that have to be met for that coverage to go into effect. You want to verify, as early in the process as possible, exactly what will not be covered and plan for that financial obligation. The Arizona Ombudsman can be a resource for helping you navigate the healthcare system for hospice care.

Beyond the required care for your loved one, what other services does the facility offer?

anthem arizona assisted living senior placementSome hospice facilities provide education and training for family members. Most also provide grief counseling services. Some facilities have “in-patient” services where things liek chemo or radiation treatment are available in order to manage the patient’s pain (versus trying to heal the body from the cancer).

Finding Hospice Care in the Metro Phoenix Area

It is difficult to navigate the choices available for hospice care in the metro Phoenix area. This why Integrity Senior Placement has been dedicated to providing support, resources, and tools to help you make informed choices for your loved one at the end-stage of life.

Integrity Senior Placement is a highly-regarded hospice placement provider in Maricopa County. We have coordinated inpatient and in-home hospice care in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and beyond. With inpatient or in-home hospice care, your loved one can pass away at peace and with dignity. Integrity Senior Placement would be honored to guide you through this process. Contact us to schedule a no-cost conversation with one of our compassionate counselors who are committed to helping you find peace with your decisions at this difficult time.

Note: In addition the resources included in the article, you might also find the Daily Caring website to be a helpful resource.

What People Are Saying

  • Integrity Placement exceeded our expectations. We called with an urgent need to relocate our 88 year old mother with advanced Parkinson’s disease, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and a heart condition to a safe, capable and conducive environment. Having changed ownership and management, her then current facility had dramatically declined, replaced administration with unethical leadership, and become an elder-care warehouse. David listened to our list of needs, our experiences, and our hopes. Within a week Integrity Placement had researched potential fits, contacted AND prepared several to address our needs, guided us through on-site reviews, and helped us walk through the decision process. Every alternative we visited was exceptional and prepared to address our specific financial and medical needs. We found a match a could not be happier or more relieved.

    - Steven F( Phoenix Arizona, Memory Care Placement )
  • Reina is truly our guardian angel. Fortunately, she was referred to me to help find a placement for my brother who was being discharged from a north Scottsdale facility at a moments notice. Having to deal with a facility and insurance who don’t have your loved ones best interest at heart is maddening. I was panicked. Reina calmed my fears and was instrumental in finding a wonderful placement for Joe. She stayed connected with me during the entire process and continues to be a part of our lives. I appreciate her and the value of Integrity Placement and know this transition went as smoothly as it did because of Reina. Her dedication to her clients and families, her knowledge, honesty, patience, and professionalism are truly incredible. I can’t thank Reina enough for how much she helped our family.

    - Colleen D( North Scottsdale, Arizona Senior Placement )
  • The folks at Integrity Placement can be described in one word – AMAZING! They made an extremely difficult and overwhelming situation very easy for our family. We had to place our mom in an assisted living situation very quickly. Both David and Reina were awesome – extremely responsive and compassionate. David helped us find a place that is a wonderful new home for our mom. We would not hesitate to recommend their services to anyone!!

    - Toni M( Phoenix, AZ Assisted Living Placement )
  • Reina from Integrity Placement was excellent in guiding us through the process of appropriately placing our loved one in assisted living. She worked closely with the centers we toured, was punctual and valued our time commitments. Throughout this process she was efficient, accessible and professional. She truly cares about her clients and is very supportive. Thank you Reina!

    - Jeannie C.( Scottsdale, AZ Senior Assisted Living Placement )
  • David is amazing to work with. He made a huge difference in a very difficult time for our family. We were amazed at his efficiency in finding options for care homes and couldn’t have found such a wonderful option without his guidance. But most of all, his kindness and warmth was everything to us. We will remain forever grateful.

    - Anna & Jeff K( Phoenix, Arizona Assisted Living Placement )