VITAS Releases ‘Thinking About Hospice’ Discussion Guide to Support National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16, 2020

The cover of the Thinking About Hospice discussion guide

Talking about end-of-life care is easier when patients and families have facts about what hospice is and how it can help. On National Healthcare Decisions Day, VITAS Healthcare released a free, downloadable discussion guide called “Thinking About Hospice” to help patients have important conversations and reach informed healthcare decisions.

As the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, VITAS encourages frank and honest conversations. Patients need the help of their families, physicians and other trusted sources to decide on and document the types of care they want—and do not want—as they face the challenges of advanced illness and the end of life. Healthcare providers can also forward the guide via email to patients and families from the VITAS mobile referral app for clinicians.

“Hospice can be an important part of living the way you want to and having the quality of life that matters to you,” the guide reassures in its opening pages. Sprinkled with common patient/family scenarios and easy-to-use checklists, the robust guide:

  • Describes hospice and palliative care, and the hospice team members who provide it
  • Explains who pays for hospice
  • Poses sample questions for patient-family conversations
  • Describes the four levels of hospice care defined by Medicare 

Easy-to-Understand Resources and Guidance

In plain, easy-to-understand language, the guide also provides helpful tips and resources on advance directives, advance care planning, spiritual and psychosocial support, grief, caregiving and other topics.

“Especially on National Healthcare Decisions Day, it’s essential to understand that advance care planning is appropriate for adults at any age or stage of health,” says Dr. Joseph Shega, senior vice president and chief medical officer for VITAS. “It should be an ongoing process that takes place every time a patient’s medical condition changes. Our 'Thinking About Hospice' guide serves as an ideal foundation to ask the right questions and start the conversation.”  

Resources for Healthcare Professionals, Too

VITAS encourages physicians and healthcare providers to embrace the confidence-building SPIKES protocol for delivering difficult news and helping patients and families understand their options for care as illness progresses. 

The six-step SPIKES process (which stands for setting, perception, invitation, knowledge, emotions, and strategy-summary) was developed in 2000 at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. It provides clear directions for intense-but-rewarding conversations that help patients understand their disease, decide on their options for care, and document their end-of-life wishes and preferences.

VITAS has produced short SPIKES reference graphics, as well as a 20-minute video showing the entire SPIKES experience with a patient so physicians can see the process in action:

Dr. Illeana Leyva and Dr. Eric Shaban, VITAS regional medical directors, give a step-by-step demonstration of how to approach a goals-of-care conversation.

Call VITAS to learn more about hospice and palliative care options.