How do I start hospice care?

If you have questions about hospice, someone from our team can speak with you to help you decide if hospice is the right choice for you. This is a free service and there is no obligation. It is important to have the information you need to make the decision that is right for you and your family. If you decide hospice is right for you, you will be able to choose from a list of hospice providers. Your physician or other health care provider can also make a referral to hospice for you, but the decision to enroll in hospice is your decision.

Hennepin Healthcare has a collaboration with Ecumen Hospice, an experienced Minnesota nonprofit provider. To learn more or begin the process of enrollment with Ecumen Hospice:

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When should I start hospice care?

Generally, when treatment focus shifts to comfort care and a physician determines that the patient’s life expectancy is six months or less, it is time for a hospice referral. Hospice care is not just for those patients who are close to death. In fact, the more time a patient can receive hospice care, the more benefit they and their family will receive.

Two physicians must agree that the patient has a prognosis of six months or less. One of those physicians can be the hospice medical director. A good starting point is to ask yourself if you would be surprised if the patient lived for another year. If you would be surprised, then contacting hospice is ideal.

Hospice is for patients of all ages and is appropriate for a variety of life-limiting illnesses, including, but not limited to, the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia
  • Heart Disease
  • Lung Disease
  • Cancer
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or ALS
  • Comorbidities

For more detailed guidelines related to specific diseases, view the Criteria for Determining Hospice Appropriateness.

General indicators for hospice care include:

  • Increased or uncontrolled pain
  • Progressive weight loss
  • A decline in the ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Frequent infections, emergency room visits or hospitalizations
  • Progressive decline despite curative interventions
  • Increased weakness or fatigue
  • Withdrawal, confusion or inability to get out of bed
  • Poor nutritional status

Hospice staff is available to provide an assessment and informational visit, free of charge and with no obligations, for patients who are considering hospice care.