Hospice Resources and FAQs

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care is dedicated to helping people live each day with dignity and comfort through the changes and challenges at the end of life. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Your primary hospice social worker and nurse will assist you with any other questions or concerns.

Considering hospice care

If you’re wondering if you or your loved one could benefit from additional support or services, this quiz may help ease the decision-making process.

Frequently asked questions

What is hospice and palliative care?

Hospice care is defined as comfort-focused care for people with a life-limiting illness. Palliative treatment is therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but does not alter the course of the disease, in order to improve the quality of life.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care takes a team approach to care to compassionately meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families. We focus on the quality of life as the patient and family define it. We also focus on the rights of the patient and their loved ones to remain in control of the patient's life and health care choices.

What can Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care do?

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care will assist in coordinating patients’ care and supporting the choices made by patients and their families.

For patients, we can provide:

  • Pain and symptom management
  • Acquisition and administration of medication and equipment related to your terminal illness
  • Emotional and spiritual support
  • Consultation on financial matters
  • Volunteer assistance
  • Coordination of care with other caregivers

For families, we can provide:

  • Education and training in skills required to meet your loved one's changing needs
  • Emotional and spiritual support
  • Short-term respite care to relieve fatigued caregivers
  • Consultation on financial matters
  • Bereavement support

Who pays for hospice care?

Hospice care is a covered benefit for all Medicare and Medicaid patients who qualify for care, with care related to your terminal illness covered in full. Most commercial insurance plans also have a hospice benefit. Our reimbursement team will work with your insurance company to coordinate your benefits. In addition, charity care is available to all patients in need; your social worker can guide you through the application process.

What major expenses are not covered?

24-hour caregiving, funeral and burial costs, and medicine and equipment unrelated to the terminal illness are not covered by hospice benefits.

Do I have to change my primary care provider to receive hospice care?Your Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care team will work with your primary provider to coordinate your care. They may consult with our medical director to assist with symptom management, but your provider remains in charge of your care plan.

Do I have to move or go to another location to receive hospice care?Your Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care team will visit you in your home, whether that is in an assisted living setting, a boarding home, a skilled nursing facility or your private home. We also offer inpatient hospice services.

How often will my team members visit?

Your nurse and social worker will assist you in establishing schedules for all members of your care team to ensure all your needs are met.

Can I start or continue receiving treatment for my condition while under hospice care?

Your Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care team will assist you in facilitating all comfort-focused care needs. Sometimes, people decide they want to pursue curative treatment. You may choose to revoke your hospice benefit anytime you feel the need to change the focus of your care.

How do I get help without calling 911?

Your Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care team can be accessed 24 hours a day through our answering service, and a nurse familiar with you and your care needs will assist you with any concerns you may have, at any time. If hospitalization is necessary to manage your symptoms, the nurse will facilitate the transfer to ensure seamless care between us and the hospital.

What if I get better?

Many of our Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care patients improve in their condition with the expert symptom management we provide. Your team members will work with you to transition your care back to your primary provider if there comes a time when you no longer qualify or need hospice care. Hospice care is always available again should you need it down the road.

What if I want to discontinue hospice services?

You may choose to "revoke" your hospice benefit anytime you feel hospice care is not of interest. In this case, you would notify your Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care nurse or social worker to complete the necessary paperwork. You may resume your hospice care anytime if your provider again certifies terminal illness.

What if I have problems not associated with my hospice diagnosis?

Your medical insurance will cover all unrelated medical problems as it normally would. Your hospice benefit covers all comfort care related to your terminal diagnosis.

What hospital would I go to if I required hospitalization?

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care encourages the use of St. Joseph Medical Center (Tacoma), St. Francis Hospital (Federal Way), St. Clare Hospital (Lakewood), or St. Anthony Hospital (Gig Harbor), St. Michael Medical Center (Silverdale), and St. Anne Hospital (Burien). We will work with you and your provider to honor your preference.

Do I have to be classified as a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) to receive hospice care?

No. Your Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice and Palliative Care team focuses on self-directed life closure, not hospice-directed life closure. Your team will work with you to support your choices.

What happens if I want to explore physician aid in dying (Death with Dignity) while on Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Hospice?

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health neither participates in, nor facilitates, physician aid in dying. Our position is rooted in our faith and in our belief that all life is sacred, from conception to death. We are guided by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. However, if you are on hospice and explore this option, you do not need to stop your hospice care.

Additional resources