Doing some homework on hospice care reveals there is a lot more to know on the subject than at first blush. The national organization says hospice specializes in caring for people with life-limiting illness for medical care, pain management, emotional, and spiritual support. Yet that’s only part of the story.

Hospice provides 4 levels of care – Routine Home Care, General Inpatient Care, Continuous Home Care, and Inpatient Respite Care.  And it’s the first two levels which may get overlooked if you view hospice as someone to call at a patient’s the last moments.  This can help relieve the stress and improve the quality of life for both the patient and the caregivers.

“My philosophy is, as soon as you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you should start educating yourself and exploring your options, hospice in particular” says Jim Pride, Director of Operations with Good Samaritan Hospice, a locally owned and operated hospice provider in North Alabama. He recommends that families know about hospice well in advance of the physician saying “we’ve done all we can”.

Seeking hospice care doesn’t mean the patient or the family is giving up, but making the most of the time left. “We believe it’s a shift in focus from treatment of a disease to treatment of the symptoms and comfort care,” he said. “Patients are able to focus on what is important to them.”

A few tips:

  • Be sure the hospice agency you choose has been surveyed by a state or federal oversight agency in the last five years
  • Confirm that it has completed the Standards Self Assessment
  • Verify that it is accredited by a national organization

These standards are in place to better ensure quality of care. Checking out options well ahead of perceived need may be one of the best decisions a family can make.