how to choose hospice why staff

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How to choose a hospice: Why staff recommendations matter

(This is part eight of a series on how to choose a hospice. To start from the beginning go here.)

I’m going to assume that you have followed the instructions from part 2 that says that you should under no circumstances use a hospice that is owned by the nursing home or owned by the same person who owns the nursing home the patient lives in.

Assuming that is true, then here is some advice specifically for people looking for a hospice to come into a nursing home:

1. Ask the nursing home staff who they recommend. Usually they will have one that they use more than others or one that they think is best. The downside to this is that you have to make sure that the staff member you are talking to doesn’t moonlight for the hospice they are recommending. It is common practice for a hospice to hire a nurse from the nursing home to do some part time work. Obviously, someone on the payroll of a hospice isn’t an objective observer of which hospices are good and which are not.

2. Ask the nursing home staff if they can tell you the name of the best nurse from the hospice. Once you have that name, you can ask specifically to have that nurse Case Manage your loved one. This will help you avoid getting the rookie or the slacker. If you tell the hospice up front that it is important to you that you have a specific member of the staff, they will grant the request if it is at all possible. Remember, they want your business.

Notice in number one that I said the staff will either have one they like or one they think is best. Those two things don’t always go hand in hand. Nursing homes often judge hospices by how much of their work they can push off on the hospice employees. Hospices that hold their ground and make the nursing home do their job are not always popular with the nursing home staff, but they are often good.

Ask more than one staff member at the nursing home and ask people on different shifts. The night nurse will know if the hospice on-call nurse comes quickly, while the morning nurse will know if the hospice Aide shows up on time and does the job well. Ask around and see what you find out. It may not be the best or most objective advice you ever get, but you’ll learn a thing or two about your options.

The final part of the puzzle is knowing what doesn’t matter.