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Questions to Ask When Choosing a Hospice Provider
By Evalisa McClure, RN, VITAS General Manager


Most families are understandably overwhelmed when a loved one is referred to hospice. The looming uncertainties and difficult decisions associated with end-of-life care add extra stress to an already difficult situation. 
Hospice programs can help by controlling pain, reducing anxiety and offering support to terminally ill patients and their families but with more than 4,000 hospice agencies nationwide, choosing the right program for your loved one can be challenging. 

Here are some important questions to ask hospice providers before choosing a specific program: 

What services does the hospice company offer?
Hospice provides care to patients during the end of life but some programs also provide specialized services to make the patient's final days more enjoyable. For instance, as the nation's leading provider of end-of-life care, VITAS Healthcare offers respiratory therapy, music therapy, pet visits and other services to further assist patients and their families during these trying times.

Is it an established program?
Experience is key when it comes to hospice services. As a pioneer and leader in the hospice movement since 1978, VITAS has developed and shared key practices to make sure patients at the end of life receive high-quality care and their families get the support they need. VITAS' philosophy of care centers on comfort and quality, focusing on the patient, not the disease. 

Where can the patient receive care?
Studies show that most patients prefer dying at home and VITAS can bring hospice services to whatever place is most comfortable for the patient. No matter where a person chooses to receive these services, hospice staff can guide them and their families through difficult decisions about their end-of-life care. 

Who covers the costs?
Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans. To be eligible for hospice under Medicare, the patient must be entitled to Part A of Medicare, and certified by their physician and a hospice physician as having a terminal illness, with a prognosis of six months or less.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has resources to guide you if a loved one needs end-of-life care. For more information about VITAS, visit www.VITAS.com or call 412-799-2101.

VITAS works hard to ensure people can access these and other important resources. Our trained hospice professionals live in the counties VITAS services (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland) and work closely with patients and their families to provide the caring, compassionate attention they need.

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