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How to choose the right hospice care for your loved one

By The Health News Team | November 6, 2023
Woman holding a patient's hands in a hospital bed

Choosing a hospice care provider can be an emotional and challenging process. But taking the time to explore and understand key factors can help ensure that your loved one receives compassionate and high-quality care during their final days.

From confirming certifications and not-for-profit or for-profit status to ensuring the availability of bereavement support, several things should be evaluated when choosing a hospice care provider.

4 factors to consider as you compare hospice care providers


Needs and preferences

Hospice care providers offer a range of services and support, including nursing and medical services, dietary counseling and social services.

Suzi K. Johnson, vice president of Sharp HospiceCare, says selecting a provider should begin with your local health system. “A health system is likely to be better resourced than any other hospice provider,” Johnson says. “Under that quality brand, staff are trained a certain way and there are more resources and proper infrastructure.”

She recommends considering your loved one’s medical condition, pain management requirements, other specialized care needs, and how long each provider has been in the community. Use these needs to guide the questions you ask potential providers, such as:

  • How will my loved one’s pain and symptoms be managed?

  • Does the hospice provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

  • What specialized training do bedside staff have?


Certification and accreditation

Ensuring that a hospice care provider holds proper accreditation and licensing is crucial.

Organizations that are certified by Medicare follow basic standards of care. Accreditation from a national accrediting agency, such as The Joint Commission, further indicates a commitment to quality care.

“Accreditation is like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” Johnson says. “It says you are working to standards above and beyond what is required by the government.”


For-profit versus not-for-profit providers

While there are dozens of hospice care providers in San Diego County, not all operate the same way.

Nationwide, two-thirds of hospice providers are now for-profit companies. That means profits they generate are paid to investors. Not-for-profit providers, on the other hand, use their profits to provide additional services, including hiring more employees and adding new programs.

While this isn’t a direct indication of a provider’s quality of care, understanding the differences and what to look for can help families make a more informed decision.


Family communication and support

Choosing a provider that values open and transparent communication with both the patient and their family is an important consideration. “Hospices have a duty to keep patients and families informed regarding their care and services,” Johnson says.

This should include regular updates on the patient's condition, treatment plans and care options. Take the time to assess your family's expectations and the level of involvement you wish to have in your loved one's care.

Look for a hospice care provider that extends resources and support not only to the patient but also to the family. Grief counseling and bereavement services should be available to help families cope with the emotional challenges that come with this journey.

Selecting a hospice care provider is a deeply personal decision, Johnson says. By evaluating the provider's services, accreditation, communication and overall philosophy of care, you can make an informed choice that provides comfort and dignity to your loved one during their final days.

Learn more about Sharp HospiceCare; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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