1. when should a decision about entering a hospice program be made and who should make it?

At any time during a life-limiting illness or condition, it is appropriate to discuss all of a patient’s care options, including hospice. By law, the decision regarding hospice care belongs to the patient.

There is no definite time because each patient/family situation is different; however, Medicare studies and our own experiences have shown that early referrals are very beneficial for the patient both physically and emotionally. Hospice care should be considered when the patient enters the final stage of life and the patient/caregiver/family need help and counseling to adjust to the diagnosis, learn how to care for the patient at home and prepare for future changes.

Understandably, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of stopping an all-out effort to overcome an illness or condition. Hospice of the Sacred Heart staff members are highly sensitive to these concerns and are always available to discuss them with the patient, family and physician.

We would like to take this opportunity to clear up a misconception regarding the Medicare Hospice Benefit. Unfortunately, many people believe the use of the Medicare Hospice Benefit somehow guarantees that the patient has less than six months to live. We offer the following explanation and clarification from Medicare regarding its hospice benefit program.

“Generally speaking, the hospice benefit is intended primarily for use by patients whose prognosis is terminal, with six months or less life expectancy. [However], the Medicare program recognizes that terminal illnesses do not have entirely predictable courses.”

“Recognizing that prognoses can be unpredictable and may change, Medicare’s benefit is not limited in terms of time. Hospice care is available as long as the patient’s prognosis meets the law’s six month test. This test is a general one… based on the physician’s and/or Medical Director’s clinical judgment regarding the normal course of the individual’s illness. Medicare recognizes that making medical prognostications of life expectancy is not always an exact science.”

2. where do i go to get hospice care?

Hospice of the Sacred Heart provides the majority of its care in a patient’s home, with family and friends acting as caregivers. If the patient no longer lives at home, we can provide care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other types of assisted living facilities. If a patient requires inpatient care in order to address severe symptoms or to provide respite for a caregiver, we will arrange that for the patient. There is no charge to the Medicare patient for inpatient care.


Hospice is the “something else” that can be done for the patient and family when the illness or condition becomes life-limiting. It is a concept based on comfort-oriented care. Referral to hospice is a movement into another mode of care, which is more appropriate

4. what if i don't understand what is happening and don't know how to make the right decisions?

Hospice of the Sacred Heart provides patients and families the information and education they need to make informed decisions about hospice and the patient’s plan-of-care. Our Links to Information Resources on this website would be a good place to begin your research. The patient and family should also consult with the patient’s physician and the members of the Hospice Interdisciplinary Team to ensure that all questions are answered and all concerns are discussed.

5. what does the admission process involve?

A phone call to Hospice of the Sacred Heart at (570) 706-2400 is all that you need to start the admission process.

One of the first things we will do is contact the patient’s physician to make sure the physician agrees that hospice care is appropriate for the patient. One of our Registered Nurses will then visit the prospective patient and family to ask important questions about the illness and previous treatment, as well as questions about the home and family situation that would affect care giving.

The nurse will explain what the patient and family can expect from the hospice, how hospice provides care, the services that are available and information on the illness or condition that will help prepare the family for the journey. Medicare and/or other available benefits also will be discussed at that time.

6. can i keep my own doctor?

Yes. If that is your desire, your doctor will continue as your primary physician and will approve your admission to hospice care, delivery of services to you and changes in your plan-of-care. The hospice team members will work closely with your doctor in administering and providing your care.

However, you and your doctor may also elect to have our Medical Director assume primary responsibility for your hospice care, since Hospice Medical Directors have extensive experience and expertise in the full spectrum of hospice and palliative care. In either case, Hospice of the Sacred Heart functions as an extension of, not in place of, your primary physician. Even if our Medical Director has primary responsibility for your care, your physician will always be given updates on your status and the status of your care. Your physician also will continue to provide non-hospice related services to you and will be able to continue billing Medicare for the non-hospice related services he provides.

Our Medical Director is also available to help patients who do not have a primary physician.

7. are you a for profit or non-profit agency?

Hospice of the Sacred Heart is a non-profit agency, charitable trust within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

8. What If I Do Not Have Medicare, Medicaid Or Private Insurance Or Enough Personal Income To Pay For Services?

Hospice of the Sacred Heart does not discriminate on any patient's ability to pay.

9. Can A Hospice Of The Sacred Heart Patient Who Shows Signs Of Recovery Be Returned To Regular Medical Treatment?

Certainly. The patient always has this option. If improvement in the condition occurs and the disease seems to be in remission, the patient can be discharged voluntarily from hospice and return to aggressive therapy or go on about his or her daily life. If a discharged patient should later need to return to hospice care, Medicare/Medicaid and most private insurance companies will allow the patient’s remaining benefit to be used.

10. what if a medicare hospice patient wants to transfer to a different hospice agency?

The Medicare hospice patient has the right to transfer from one hospice agency to another once during EACH benefit period without loss of any Medicare Hospice Benefits. Should a patient decide to transfer a second time during a benefit period, he or she would forfeit the remainder of the current benefit period. However, since the Medicare benefit includes an unlimited number of 60-day periods, the patient would not forfeit his or her total remaining hospice benefit.

The transfer process is very simple, requiring only that the patient or the patient’s legal representative write a letter to each hospice agency. The letters need only indicate that the transfer is taking place and the date of the transfer. The letter to the previous agency should also contain a request that the patient’s records be transferred to the new hospice agency. Most agencies have transfer forms available that make the process even easier. The two agencies will then coordinate to ensure that the transfer is completed smoothly and safely.

11. How Difficult Is Caring For A Dying Loved One At Home?

It is never easy and sometimes can be quite hard. At the end of a long, progressive illness, nights especially can be very long, lonely and difficult. Hospice of the Sacred Heart has staff available around the clock to consult with the family and to make night visits when appropriate.

12. Does Hospice Of The Sacred Heart Do Anything To Make Death Come Sooner?

Hospice of the Sacred Heart does nothing either to speed up or slow down the dying process. Just as doctors and nurses lend support and expertise during the time of childbirth, so hospice provides its presence and specialized knowledge during the normal progression of the dying process.

13. how does hospice of the sacred heart manage pain?

Our Registered Nurses and Doctors are highly experienced in hospice and palliative care. They work diligently to remain current on the latest and most effective medications and devices for pain and symptom relief. We also believe that emotional and spiritual pains are just as real and in need of attention as physical pain, so we address these as well. Counselors, including pastoral counselors, are available to assist family members as well as patients.

14. does hospice of the sacred heart provide any help to the family after the patient dies?

The Medicare Hospice Benefit provides bereavement support for family members and loved ones for a period of 12 months. We provide continuing contact and bereavement support to family members and loved ones, as long they need us.



We are a non-profit agency. We serve the entire community and do not ask or expect patients to adhere to any particular religion or set of beliefs. We accept patients without regard for diagnosis age, disability, race, color, creed, sex or sexual preference or ability to pay.