This is the first in a multi part series on how to choose a hospice. The later posts will go into detail about what you need to know and how to find out, but before I get into all of that I wanted to talk about why it matters.
If you pump truth serum into most hospice workers they will tell you that there isn’t much difference between their company and the others, and in reality there isn’t. We all work under the rules of the Medicare Hospice Benefit. Medicare tells us what staff we must have, what we must pay for, who does and does not qualify for hospice, how often we can or can’t do certain things, who we contract with to provide certain services, and even who we can’t contract with. The Medicare Hospice Benefit rules hospice in the United States today. With that fact in mind, I’m going to tell you what you need to know before choosing a hospice for your loved one.
I’m sure you are wondering why I’m writing multiple posts about how to pick a hospice if I start post number one by saying that most hospices are the same. The answer is simply: “Because the devil is in the details”. If you call three different hospices and ask general questions about what they do and don’t provide for their patients, you will hear almost the exact same thing three times. Does that mean that it doesn’t matter which one you choose? NO! There are not many differences between hospice programs, but those little details that you don’t even know to ask about could become a big deal for your loved one.
In all honesty, I believe that most hospices do a good job of taking care of the average patient. The differences come when dealing with the rare patient or rare situations. You never know which patient is going to be average and which will present something rare. I’ve seen quite a few hospice patients, and would not ever attempt to guess at which one is going to surprise me tomorrow. This whole set of posts is written just in case your loved one falls into the rare category, because if they do then you better hope you are with the right hospice.
The following posts will give you tips on what to find out about a hospice before signing up. Tip number one is that you need to find these things out before you sign up. Every time I get a phone call about a possible admission my heart starts beating a little faster, because admissions are the lifeblood of any hospice company. At that moment I become a hospice salesman. I want your business and will do what I can to get it. If you ask me for something that is a little beyond the hospice norm during that initial phone conversation, I’ll probably say yes. If you ask for that a month after you sign up it will be much easier for me to tell you that hospice doesn’t usually do that kind of thing. Once you have signed on and built relationships with my staff I assume that you are not going to leave us for another hospice. If you ask for something way out of the norm, I know you are not going to leave us if I say no because we have a history. If you ask for that before we start, I know it could be a make or break detail. If you are going to sign yourself or a loved one up for hospice, make sure you ask your questions and get your promises up front. That first phone call is important, and most all of the future posts are going to deal with things said during that one five minute call.
Follow the link to read part two of this series: Why ownership matters