Getting Started

How do I get started?

A phone call to Hospice of the Rock River Valley is all that is needed to get started. We can answer questions, help determine whether hospice care is appropriate, and contact your doctor if you haven't already begun talking about hospice.

Hospice of the Rock River Valley can schedule an informational session for you and your family and friends to explain how hospice can help. This can take place at home, in the hospital, in the hospice office, or in another convenient location. A nurse or social worker will meet with you and your family within a day or two or on the same day if your needs are urgent.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with a serious illness, it's important to talk with your physician about whether hospice is an appropriate option. A referral from a doctor is necessary to be admitted into hospice care, but anyone—a patient, a family member, a caregiver, or a friend—can make an inquiry about hospice care.

What difference does early admission make?

Early admission to hospice usually means a higher quality of remaining life for the patient. It also means more support, less stress, and, in many cases, financial relief for the family.

  • Hospice emphasizes pain and symptom management. People who are comfortable can continue to enjoy family, friends, and living in general.
  • Hospice supports the family, too. Early admission provides the family more support during a loved one's illness. Hospice helps prevent caregiver exhaustion.
  • Cost is never an issue. Many families find that hospice saves them money because hospice pays for needed equipment, drugs, and professional services.
  • Volunteer visits and life histories are among the special hospice services that patients and families appreciate earlier rather than later in the illness.
  • Family members who love each other can still have conflicts. Given time, hospice professionals may help families work through difficulties.
  • Early admission allows hospice to provide calm transition rather than "crisis management".
  • There is no maximum number of days for hospice care. While a prognosis of six months is required for hospice eligibility, patients often live longer than this and continue to enjoy hospice care.
  • If a patient's condition improves, as sometimes happens, s/he can be discharged and readmitted later if his/her health declines again.

What can the hospice team do for people who are admitted early?

  • Your nurse and social worker can get to know you and the people you care about and develop trusting relationships with you and those providing your care.
  • Your nurse has time to adjust your medications and be sure that you're comfortable and that your pain is under control. Our nurses are experts in pain and symptom control, but need time to fine-tune medication amounts and dosage schedules to maximize comfort and symptom relief.
  • Your social worker has time to help you complete whatever tasks you need to complete.
  • A chaplain may make a visit and talk with you about what's on your mind as you face the end of life's journey, whether you describe yourself as religious or not.
  • A hospice aide can help with personal care and light housekeeping tasks.
  • A volunteer can come and give caregivers a bit of a break. Volunteers also can record your life history, take you fishing, or bring a therapy dog for a visit.
  • Early referrals allow your hospice team to avoid crises not just manage them.

Too often, we hear family members say they wish their loved one had been admitted sooner. We understand that there are a variety of reasons why a person might hesitate. But when you know that hospice is about hope, about honoring patients' choices about how they want to live their final days, about providing comfort and managing pain and symptoms associated with an illness, it makes sense to take advantage of the services hospice offers at the earliest appropriate time.

What is the admission process like?

The admission process begins with a phone call. Typically it is a physician who calls us to let us know that you or a family member has decided to accept hospice care, but your inquiry about hospice can also get things started.

Soon after your doctor gives Hospice of the Rock River Valley a referral for care, both a nurse and a social worker will visit you.

The nurse will collect medical information and perform an assessment of your current health. She'll record all your medications. She'll determine what kinds of supplies and equipment and other services may be needed. She will discuss with you the many options for keeping you comfortable. Beginning with the first visit, you will be an active partner in deciding what kind of care is most appropriate for you.

The social worker will explain hospice to you and your family and caregivers and answer any questions you may have. You'll receive a notebook of helpful information to keep as a reference. The social worker will also gather information about your background, the people available to support you, and other concerns. The social worker works with you to determine what other hospice or social services would be of help.

After the required consent and insurance forms are signed, you are officially admitted into hospice care.