Most people have a preference to die at home, but only approximately 1 in 4 end up doing so. The primary reason it that it is often just too hard. Family caregivers reported that the most common reasons for transfer were acute medical events, imminent death, and the inability to provide safe care at home. It can be an emotionally difficult time when families face the transition of a loved one to hospice care. Effective transition management of care can also be challenging for professional providers. Facilitating these transitions requires effective communication as well as providers to work cooperatively along with patients and families to maintain high quality care.
Proper Care Planning
Specifically, studies have demonstrated that understanding the processes of proper care planning, identifying increased needs of care and navigating phases of care influence decisions about transitioning patients to hospice leading to a more seamless continuum of care. Patients and family caregivers need accurate, easy-to understand information. Care professionals can help prepare patients and family caregivers for the transition by starting discussions early.
Patients and families that have questions about identifying qualified hospice providers can turn to organizations like the Joint Commission, Community Health Accreditation Partner, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and other groups have created standards of excellence that participating hospices must meet.
Ensuring Quality Care
Patients and families can also check if the hospice medical director is board certified in palliative medicine – this will provide some reassurance of quality care. Some state agencies also mandate that hospices meet certain minimum standards. In addition, hospices that accept Medicare are required to provide quality measures data reports that will eventually be publicly reported.
In the meantime, families can inquire about quality measure surveys that have been conducted by the hospice provider. Under Medicare, beneficiaries have the right to get care that meets professionally recognized standards. Patients and families can turn to a Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization that are structured to utilize doctors and other health care experts to review complaints. General eligibility requirements for hospice benefits require two physicians to certify that the patient have a life-altering condition with an expected prognosis of six months or less.
Phil Bongiorno, Executive Director, Home Care Association of America, [email protected]