How do I choose a Home Health Agency?

Home health is a program created and overseen by Medicare. Therefore, programs in general will look and feel very similar to be compliant with the laws that oversee how Home Health is provided. Depending on the state, agencies go through “surveys” at a regular interval (e.g., yearly, every 3 years, etc.) that review the operation, the clinical services, the documentation, the adherence to techniques, and patient satisfaction.

According to, questions to ask yourself and review before selecting a home health agency include:

  1. Is the agency Medicare certified?
  2. Is the agency Medicaid certified?
  3. Does the agency offer the specific services I need?
  4. Will the agency be able to meet my special needs, like language or cultural preferences?
  5. Does the agency offer personal care services, such as bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom?
  6. Does the agency offer support services or help me arrange for additional services, such as meal delivery?
  7. Is the agency well-staffed to give the type and amount of care I need?
  8. Is the agency respected in my community, recommended by the hospital discharge planner, my doctor, or a social worker?
  9. Does the agency have staff available for emergencies at night or on the weekends?
  10. Is the agency transparent about what my insurance will cover, what must be paid out-of-pocket, and include me in discussions of resources?
  11. Have prior patients attested to the good care received by the agency?

Some additional questions that we have found helpful for patients and families include:

  1. How soon will my services start? Specifically, for each discipline?
    • Some agencies will start services with one discipline, e.g., nursing, and wait a few weeks before starting the next service, e.g., physical therapy. If your goal is physical therapy, then this timeline might be a reason to consider a different agency.
  2. How frequent will my services for each discipline be?
    • Some agencies plan for only 1 visit per week for the disciplines involved, e.g., 1 visit from the nurse, 1 visit from the physical therapist, 1 visit from the aide. If you have specific goals and needs, this cadence may not be right for you. If there is limited flexibility, this might be a reason to consider a different agency.
  3. Am I involved in my care plan? Does my opinion affect my services?
    • Some agencies have to submit care plans for review and approval. This may or may not take into consideration your needs, health plans, and environmental circumstances. If you are not comfortable with a third-party review, this might be a reason to consider a different agency.
  4. How much choice do I have in selecting an agency?
    • In states where patient choice is the law, you as the patient can freely choose an agency that serves your area. Your provider – doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant – may have a preference for whom they prefer to work with, but you ultimately have the choice of your provider for home health. In states where a certificate of need is issued, there may be a restriction on the number of providers. If you are displeased with your offerings, you can reach out to your state’s department of health for guidance on other options.

Elite Home Health & Hospice serves in both Washington and Idaho. We are the Certificate of Need holder for Asotin and Garfield counties. We also serve in Nez Perce, Latah, and Clearwater counties in Idaho where patients have choice. We are Medicare and Medicaid certified, as well as maintaining working agreements with multiple insurance companies.

We offer skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, aide, and social work services through our home health program. We utilize qualified interpreters or a language service to communicate with members of the community whose primary language is different from English.

Our aides, or certified nursing assistants, are part of your rehabilitation program, and can be scheduled to support learning strategies for dressing, grooming, and bathing in coordination with our occupational therapy services.

Elite is proud to employ residents of the Lewis-Clark Valley, Moscow, and Orofino communities. We believe in hiring within the communities we serve, and we have been doing so since 1984. Our staff supports services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If your insurance benefit does not cover services 100%, you will receive a call from our insurance team who will discuss with you the costs of your services before we send the nurse out to your home. You are a critical member of our healthcare team, and your financial health is important to us. Our customer reviews are publicly available, and we use positive and negative reviews to assess our quality of services and make changes.

Elite works with your schedule to get all of your ordered disciplines started within your first week of service. If you have a preference to delay a particular discipline, let us know, so we can accommodate that change. Our care plans are proposed and discussed with you at your evaluation session. That means, your voice helps determine how often you are seen and by whom. We do not send your care plan for review to a third-party to determine your frequency of visits from our team.

In Asotin and Garfield Counties, we are your provider. We are happy to serve and support your health goals.

In Idaho, you have a choice. We hope you will consider Elite for all of your home health and hospice needs. We are here to provide you with life-changing service.

Hospice and Palliative Care

Are they different? YES

Hospice is a Medicare program. Medicare has designed and created this program.

Palliative is not a designated service. Elite has created its program, so this will look different from agency to agency.

Here is a fun way to understand how these two services are different!

Understanding Hospice Part 2

Lots of great information to better understand this unique service line. Hospice is such a great benefit that is so misunderstood. We will finish out the answers to our Hospice quiz from 2 weeks ago. As always, if there are any questions, please email us at

Hospice provides medications, treatments, medical equipment and supplies that are related to the patient’s illness that is causing the need for services.

Hospice reviews each medication and works with the patient and family to support medications that are providing comfort. Medications that are unrelated to the diagnosis causing the need for hospice may be an out-of-pocket cost for families. This should be reviewed and discussed at the evaluation visit.

Hospice ends when the patient dies.

Grief support is provided for the family members after the patient has passed away for 13 months. Social workers and chaplains often support this service.

Hospice care is available to any individual expected to live 6 months or less.

Patients can live beyond 6 months while on hospice. The health status is regularly reviewed to determine continued eligibility. Hospice services may end due to the patient no longer having a 6-month prognosis. Patients may graduate from hospice at this point. If the patient begins to decline, they can be readmitted to the hospice program again.

People who live alone are able to receive hospice.

Most hospices will enroll a patient without a caregiver. Usually, if there is a concern for caregiver needs, this may become a focus of the hospice care plan to assure the patient has proper care and support as their disease progresses and additional help is required.

Hospice is designed to treat the emotional needs of the dying individual and their family.

The hospice team is uniquely trained to provide emotional support. The unique training of social workers and chaplains aids in meeting these needs. The patient and family determine the level of support provided.

Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cannot have hospice.

Around 13% of all hospice patients have a diagnosis of one of the dementias. This is becoming the largest and fastest growing segment of hospice.

While on hospice, individuals can receive treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery to cure the illness causing the need for services.

In many cases, these interventions are considered curative. As such, the role of hospice cannot properly be provided, and patients will often choose to discharge from hospice in pursuit of these services.

Individuals on hospice cannot be taken to the hospital.

Hospitalization is usually unnecessary while on hospice. Unrelated conditions may be treated in a hospital setting while on hospice. The important thing is to let the hospice agency know, so they can properly advise if a hospitalization is the best treatment plan based on overall goals. The hospital will also need to be informed to support the patient’s decisions for care.

Hospice care focuses on managing pain and symptoms.

The purpose of hospice is quality pain and symptom management. In fact, this is one of the key metrics that contributes to a hospice’s rating. Most patients expect hospice to address pain relief as a priority in the care plan.

Hospice is for the caregivers, family, and friends, as well as, the patient.

Hospice is a team targeting physical, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual needs. Additional members that may be available, depending on the hospice, include massage therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, pharmacists, and volunteers.

Hospice is a minimum of 12 hours of daily bedside care provided by the clinicians.

Hospice is generally provided as visits by different team members each week. The frequency and duration of visits will depend on the patient’s needs. There may be a need to supplement services with hired caregivers to meet all the needs of the patient.

Understanding Hospice

Last week, we gave a 24-question quiz to test your knowledge of hospice. What we have found is that there are many misconceptions of hospice, what it is, what it is designed to do, and when to pursue it. So, let’s dig into the questions together. As always, feel free to send follow-up questions to

Hospice is a 24/7 service.

Hospice is provided on a 24/7 basis. That means patients and families on hospice can call at any time of day to speak with a nurse or have the nurse come out to the home to do a visit. Our goal is comfort. These issues do not always occur during a regular business day. That is why these are services designed to meet your needs…whenever that may happen.

Hospice is only for 6 months even if you continue to live beyond that time frame.

Hospice is a service designed to be initiated during the last 6 months of life. BUT, this is not an exact science, and patients are not beholden to the 6 months. Medicare guidelines dictate that hospice services are only to be stopped if the patient’s condition improves beyond a brief or temporary period that the life expectancy is now beyond 6 months. Hospice benefits do not expire, and patients can access these benefits if conditions change again, and they now qualify for hospice again.

Hospice is only for cancer patients.

Hospice is not contingent on a particular disease process, like cancer. In fact, many hospice patients have conditions related to heart and lung disease, dementia, kidney failure, neurological disease, and many other conditions. Hospice is not a cancer-specific service.

Hospice services are paid for by health insurance.

Hospice is covered by nearly all insurance plans. Medicare and Medicaid cover these services in nearly all 50 states. Coverage may vary state by state. Some things are not covered based on state benefits such as nutritional supplements and disposable supplies. Room and board at a nursing home and over the counter medications are typically not covered and are often paid out of pocket by the family or through a long-term care insurance plan.

Hospice services include comfort and grief support for families after the patient dies.

Hospice includes bereavement services. These services are provided for 13 months after the passing of a loved one. This may be one-on-one counseling, group sessions, or periodic phone calls. Bereavement is often extended to members of the public who interacted with the individual who passed as well.

Hospice can be provided in nursing homes.

Hospice can be provided in a residential setting. That means traditional homes/apartments/condominiums, nursing homes, and assisted living communities – including memory care facilities may all serve as locations for hospice.

Hospice is only appropriate if the person only has a few days to live.

Hospice is designed to be a gradual progression of increased care and support as symptoms change and the body changes. Most people find hospice is beneficial when the full range of skilled medical, emotional, and spiritual support services for provided for at least a month or longer.

Patients on hospice cannot receive care from spouses, partners, children or other loved ones.

Hospice supports the family and caregivers of the patient through education and partnership. Support for stress and identifying resources are often key elements of the hospice care plan. In most cases, family members provide the day-to-day patient care.

Hospice helps by speeding up the dying process.

Hospice does not speed up the dying process. At this point of the illness, no medical intervention can prolong or cure the terminal illness. Hospice is designed to support the quality of life by addressing symptoms and discomfort. Some studies suggest patients actually live longer on hospice than without the service.

Hospice cannot be provided in the home.

Over 66% of all hospice is provided in the home setting!

Only persons older than 65 can receive hospice.

Hospice is not constrained to age. Any person with a terminal diagnosis and expected to pass in 6 months is eligible for hospice, regardless of age.

Anyone can make a referral to hospice.

Anyone can initiate the process for a hospice review. Often, patients, family members, or caregivers reach out to hospice and ask if the service is appropriate. This usually starts a conversation with the patient’s provider (doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) to better understand the patient’s prognosis and goals. If hospice makes sense, the provider writes an order, and the hospice assessment occurs.

Lots of great information here. If there are questions, let us know. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Email us at

Hospice Quiz

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month!

Let’s test our knowledge and learn together!

True or False:

  1. Hospice is a 24/7 service.
  2. Hospice is only for 6 months even if you continue to live beyond that time frame.
  3. Hospice is only for cancer patients.
  4. Hospice services are paid for by health insurance.
  5. Hospice services include comfort and grief support for families after the patient dies.
  6. Hospice can be provided in nursing homes.
  7. Hospice is only appropriate if the person only has a few days to live.
  8. Patients on hospice cannot receive care from spouses, partners, children or other loved ones.
  9. Hospice helps by speeding up the dying process.
  10. Hospice cannot be provided in the home.
  11. Only persons older than 65 can receive hospice.
  12. Anyone can make a referral to hospice.
  13. Hospice provides medications, treatments, medical equipment and supplies that are related to the patient’s illness that is causing the need for services.
  14. Hospice ends when the patient dies.
  15. Hospice care is available to any individual expected to live 6 months or less.
  16. People who live alone are able to receive hospice.
  17. Hospice is designed to treat the emotional needs of the dying individual and their family.
  18. Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cannot have hospice.
  19. While on hospice, individuals can receive treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery to cure the illness causing the need for services.
  20. Individuals on hospice cannot be taken to the hospital.
  21. Hospice care focuses on managing pain and symptoms.
  22. Hospice is for the caregivers, family, and friends, as well as, the patient.
  23. The Hospice team is a physician, nurses, social workers, and chaplains.
  24. Hospice is a minimum of 12 hours of daily bedside care provided by the clinicians.

Here are the answers:

  1. True
  2. False
  3. False
  4. True
  5. True
  6. True
  7. False
  8. False
  9. False
  10. False
  11. False
  12. True
  13. True
  14. False
  15. True
  16. True
  17. True
  18. False
  19. False
  20. False
  21. True
  22. True
  23. True
  24. False

Explanations will be in next week’s blog…stay tuned!

Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November is the month where we get the privilege to highlight the unique realm of healthcare that is focused strictly on quality of life.

The Hospice Foundation of America provides resources to assist in selecting the best hospice provider for you.

Here are some key ideas to consider when selecting a hospice provider

What does a day on hospice look like? According to the Hospice Foundation of America, hospice is…

  • Medical care for people with an anticipated life expectancy of 6 months or less, when cure isn’t an option, and the focus shifts to symptom management and quality of life. 
  • An interdisciplinary team of professionals trained to address physical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs of the person; the team also supports family members and other intimate unpaid caregivers.  
  • Specialty care that is person-centered, stressing coordination of care, clarification of goals of care, and communication.
  • Provided primarily where a person lives, whether that is a private residence, nursing home, or community living arrangement, allowing the patient to be with important objects, memories, and family.
  • Care that includes periodic visits to the patient and family caregivers by hospice team members. Hospice providers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond if patient or caregiver concerns arise.
  • The only medical care that includes bereavement care, which is available during the illness and for more than a year after the death for the family/intimate network.

For more information, check out Hospice Foundation Of America – What is Hospice?

This is an unbiased website about what to look for and consider when selecting a hospice provider.

As a local provider, we hope you will choose us to support you and your loved ones in this critical decision. We know every story is different and every experience is unique. Our goal is to tailor your experience to you and your wishes. If you have questions, you can always call or email us.

Are all hospice agencies the same?

Hospice is a Medicare program, so agencies that pursue Medicare certification must offer the same basic services. However, the “same basic services” does not necessarily mean these services are equal. Hospice providers have choices in how they design and carryout a treatment plan. These differences can provide a very different hospice experience across agencies.

If you have a choice, selecting a hospice agency should be a carefully considered decision. For example, an agency can be certified only by Medicare which is managed by the state the agency is in. However, agencies can choose to pursue stricter and more stringent standards. This may involve accreditation with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization or review by an outside organization, such as the Community Health Accreditation. Agencies that pursue these higher standards show that while the minimum requirements to provide “hospice” are met, these agencies are choosing the next level of care and are measured on their performance across other aspects of the hospice service.

Hospice is a medical service, but not all of hospice has to be medically focused. Some hospice agencies embrace alternative interventions such as massage therapy, energy work, therapeutic music, and palliative therapies, such as physical, occupational or speech. Also, some hospice agencies support specific populations, such as geriatrics, veterans, or pediatric patients. Some hospice agencies foster building in cultural considerations into the care, such as language used during service, religious beliefs and practices supported through spiritual care, and intentional inclusion of the diversity in the community. If these are important to you, make sure the hospice agency you select is open to alternative medicine options, such as naturopathic or Eastern approaches.

Finally, hospice is a 24/7 service, but that means different things for different providers. A monitored voicemail is different than a live answering service or a scheduled nurse visit the next day versus a middle of the night nurse phone call versus a middle of the night in-person nurse house call. Knowing what you need and want can help aid in differentiating what is available.

Choosing the right provider can demonstrate the unique value of hospice or tarnish a perspective of what the hospice benefit actually is. Take your time and start early. Schedule a meeting with a potential provider to better understand how they do hospice!

What is Hospice?

Hospice is not a place. Hospice is not a death sentence.

Hospice is the specific service that is provided when you are no longer seeking curative treatments. The goal of hospice is your comfort to support you in living your life. Hospice is flexible in where it can be provided.

Hospice does not require that you stop all medications. The goal of hospice is to make sure the medications you are taking serve you. If you are uncomfortable, because of side effects of your medications, these might be removed, because the goal of hospice is comfort.

In hospice, you do not have to be a DNR (do not resuscitate). The goal of hospice is to help you understand these decisions and honor what you have requested.

Hospice is prescribed by your provider and can support individuals with various forms of cancer, dementia, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, renal disease, liver disease, HIV/AIDS, neurological disease, and stroke or coma.

At Elite, we do hospice differently. Our team designs your program based on your needs where your voice has a say in your visits, your care goals, and your family’s needs.

October is Home Health & Hospice Month

Elite has the pleasure of serving both home health and hospice. Because we are a dual agency, we are able to support our patients along the continuum of their rehabilitation phases and in their end-of-life process. We believe that these relationships that we build with our patients and their families allows us to give care in a unique manner. Specifically, we are able to contextualize rehabilitation with the background of working through past rehabilitation stays and recoveries, facilitating family support or needing to hire additional aid, and building care plans based on your goals of care.

Elite does it differently. One of our key pieces of building your care plan is to discuss what your goals of care are. What procedures? What treatments? What family members? What friends? What resources? Our liaisons meet with current, prior, and potential patients to go through what your goals of care mean, and what needs to be done to make them a reality. We are intentional in these meetings to support you in making the choice for you in that moment. And, we are available to meet again if those goals change, and a different decision needs to be made.

Home health and hospice are about relationships.

This month we have the honor of celebrating the work our team does every day. Please join us in learning about home health and hospice services this month!

Advice to Caregivers about Hospice

As a caregiver, your focus is on your person. Usually caregiving involves oral care, maintaining linens, providing bed baths, taking care of the skin, and meeting needs as they come up (e.g., eating, drinking, changing clothes, repositioning, etc.).

As a hospice agency, you as the caregiver are important to us as well. One of our jobs is to check in on you, and make sure that you have opportunities to refresh as you continue in this act of service for your loved one.

Caregiver stress is real. It is an emotional and physical strain from caring for a loved one. Common feelings and emotions include feeling overwhelmed, tired – oversleeping or unable to sleep, weight changes, mood changes – irritability, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, feeling sad, headaches/body pain, and increased use of alcohol or drugs (including prescription medications).

Giving yourself permission to take care of your person – your mind, your body, and your spirit, is part of the hospice philosophy. You have permission to not finish all tasks, not be all things to all people, say, “No,” schedule time for yourself, and be untidy and imperfect.

Discussing these concerns with your hospice team – the nurse, the social worker, and the chaplain, helps us help you. Let us know!