What to Expect – and Demand – from a Good Hospice

Based on interviews and surveys of family caregivers who have used hospice care, the American Hospice Foundation has developed a checklist to help those who want to know what to expect, and even demand, from a hospice committed to a high quality of care.

The staff of a good hospice should:

  • Clearly explain what will be necessary to care for the patient at home.
  • Enable the family to provide some of the care, through helpful information and hands-on training.
  •  Let the family know in advance how frequently they can expect visits from the hospice staff.
  • Order the necessary equipment and supplies, and ensure that they arrive promptly.
  • Explain the treatment of pain and other symptoms.
  • Make certain that the patient is comfortable and free of pain or other troubling problems.
  • Ensure that pain medications are given without delay.
  • Respond immediately to urgent calls from the patient or family.
  • Treat the patient and the family with respect at all times.  
  • Include the family – and the patient, whenever possible – in planning the patient's care.
  • Ask about the patient’s special final wishes.
  • Determine if the patient wants spiritual support from the hospice.
  • Arrange for the patient’s brief inpatient stay (respite care), if family caregivers need time away from their duties at home.
  • Tell the family what is likely to happen when the patient dies.
  • Prepare the family for the patient’s death with emotional support.
  • Explain what needs to be done after the death.
  • Contact family members after the death to inquire about their needs.
  • Offer grief support to help the family adjust to life changes after the death.

When a hospice provides inpatient care, the location and hours should:

  • Be convenient for family visits at any time.
  • Provide peace and quiet for the patient.
  • Allow ample space for family members to gather.
  • Ensure privacy for the patient and family visitors.

By Naomi Naierman, President & CEO, American Hospice Foundation. This article was originally published on the American Hospice Foundation website. © 2007 American Hospice Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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