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Choosing Hospice Care That's Right for You
By Deborah Kaylor, RN, BSN

Deborah Kaylor, RN, BSN

Hospice is a philosophy of care which enables patients and families to make positive choices concerning physical, emotional, and spiritual care during life's final stages. Choosing hospice care for your loved one can be a difficult decision during a stressful time. Here are some things you will want to consider:

Community Reputation. It is important to choose an agency with a long-standing reputation in the community and is based in your local area. Hospice nurses are members of the community, your neighbors, and when you need assistance, it is important to have someone close by.

Services Provided. Hospices are regulated under Medicare guidelines, thus the required basic services provided by all hospices are the same. It is beneficial to choose an agency with Clinical Nurse Specialists or nurses with advanced education or certifications in hospice care. Find out what the hospice does that is above and beyond what is required.

Medical Director. When you are looking for a hospice, ask about the clinical experience of the medical director. Choose an agency with a medical director who has a background in or is certified in cancer care and/or palliative care.

Pharmacy. One of the main focuses of hospice care is to keep the patient comfortable and pain-free. Choose a hospice that has a relationship with a pharmacist who is specially trained in end-of-life symptom and pain management and is readily available to answer questions.

Inpatient Hospice Unit. Occasionally patients experience distressing symptoms and require care that can best be given around the clock on a short term basis. Choosing a hospice with an inpatient unit allows for a seamless transition between levels of care with great continuity.

Interview Prospective Hospices. Call and interview prospective hospices to see if they would be a good fit for you or your loved one. You should feel comfortable when talking with the agency representative, and they should be helpful and answer your questions to your understanding.

Deciding upon which hospice provides care to you or a loved one is your choice. Ask questions — the answers can make a big difference in the care and support you and your loved one receive.

For further information, contact VNA Hospice at (724) 282-6806 or go to www.vna.com. Debbie Kaylor is Director, Customer Relations, VNA, Western Pennsylvania.

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