Frequently Asked Questions

Hospice cares for people at the end of their life, focusing on the whole person and all of their needs: physical, emotional, social and spiritual. The hospice concept is not new; in fact, hospices have provided comfort, kindness and spiritual nourishment to people in need for hundreds of years. Today’s hospice programs offer that same tradition of comfort to people as they near the end of life’s journey.

Hospice care is provided to those who, in consultation with their physicians, have decided that supportive rather than curative care is desired. The focus of hospice is comfort and quality of life. Despite the association of Hospice with terminal illness, the primary goal is to help people spend their time living as fully and completely as they wish, in their own familiar, comfortable surroundings, and in the company of family and friends.

Patients and their families and friends experience many conflicting emotions when faced with a life-threatening illness -– emotions such as fear, anger, loneliness and anxiety about the future. The hospice team can help both the patient and their loved ones cope with the experience of a life threatening illness in all its dimensions, physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual.

Hospice affirms a person’s right to choice and to be in control of decision-making about their care. It is the role of the hospice team to present and discuss options with the patient and family, and to assist them in making informed healthcare decisions.

Basic to the concept of hospice is an acknowledgment that death is a part of life and a belief that there are opportunities for growth in all stages of life, including the last stage.

Many people think that “hospice” is a particular place, but hospice care can be provided almost anywhere a patient resides: at the patient’s home, or in a retirement home, adult family home, assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility.

Download the Hospice Handbook for more information. 

Palliative care is a health care approach that focuses on providing comfort, managing pain and physical symptoms, and promoting quality of life, but that does not specifically seek to cure an illness. By providing relief from pain and physical symptoms, palliative care can enhance a patient’s ability to engage in meaningful activities.

Palliative treatments that are intended to improve comfort and quality of life are often compatible with receiving hospice care. This philosophy, called Open Access, focuses on the patient's goals of care. If the patient's goal and the hospice's goal are both optimal comfort and quality of life, in the face of a life limiting condition, palliative treatment serves both the patient's needs and the hospice's mission.

The Open Access philosophy enables Providence Hospice of Seattle to be more inclusive of patients who are benefiting from palliative treatments. Our patients do not have to forego palliative treatments that accomplish their comfort and quality of life goals in order to receive the skilled support and care offered by hospice. Hospice team members work with each patient’s physician to determine which treatments and therapies are appropriate for palliative care.

Any adult or child who has a life-limiting illness and is no longer seeking curative treatment may be eligible for hospice care. All hospice services are provided in the patient's home or place of residence: nursing home, assisted living, or adult family home.

Hospice care is appropriate for people with almost any type of advanced illness, including cancer, ALS and other neurological conditions, Parkinson’s disease, end-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia, cardiac disease, renal disease, respiratory disease, stroke, AIDS, and so on. Hospice is also appropriate for people who don’t have any one illness causing their decline, but are clearly approaching the end of life.

In addition, Providence Hospice of Seattle is the only hospice in King County to offer pediatric hospice and palliative care to infants, children and teens through our Stepping Stones program.

Providence Hospice of Seattle accepts payment from Medicare Part A (patients with all Medicare HMO programs are eligible for our services), Medicaid and most private insurance plans. We also accept private payment. No one is denied services because of an inability to pay.

Medicare has two parts, Hospital Insurance (or Part A) and Medical Insurance or (Part B). Part A covers hospice services and pays nearly all the costs of a patient’s hospice care, which can include:

  • Intermittent home visits by the hospice staff
  • Approved medications for symptom control and pain relief
  • Many types of medical equipment (like wheelchairs or walkers) and supplies (like bandages and catheters)
  • Short-term respite care in a nursing home
  • Authorized outpatient procedures to alleviate symptoms
  • Approved hospitalizations for symptom management
  • Grief and loss counseling

The Medicare Hospice Benefit does not cover the following:

  • Treatment intended to cure a terminal illness
  • Care from another hospice other than the current hospice provider (Providence Hospice of Seattle)
  • Room and board at an assisted living facility, nursing facility or adult family home

Medicaid has a similar hospice benefit, as do most private insurance plans. (Those with private insurance plans should contact the patient’s insurance company’s customer service department for specific information regarding hospice benefits.)

Providence Hospice of Seattle provides hospice care in a patient’s current place of residence. This may be the patient’s home, retirement home, adult family home, assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility.

At any time during the course of a life-limiting illness, it is appropriate to discuss all of a patient's care options, including hospice care. In general, the earlier Providence Hospice can become involved with a patient, the more support we can give to both the patient and his or her caregivers.

It may be time for hospice when:

  • Curative treatment is no longer an option, or is no longer desired.
  • The treatment emphasis changes to comfort, pain management and symptom control, and enhancing quality of life.
  • The patient’s physician thinks hospice can help.
  • The patient knows he or she is not going to get well. (Patients sometimes become aware of this before others do.)

Any adult or child who has a life-limiting illness and is no longer seeking curative treatment may be eligible for hospice care. Anyone can make a hospice referral. To be admitted to hospice, the patient’s physician must certify that the patient has an estimated life expectancy of six months or less, and the patient has made a decision to seek comfort care only.

If you’re a patient or caregiver who is interested in hospice, please contact us for more information, or ask your physician for a referral. You can also reach us at our referral line 509-474-2550.

Before the Admission Visit: An Admission Visit may be up to 2 hours long, so being informed will help you prepare for the visit. What you can do to prepare:

  • Review information on our website: and discuss hospice with those closest to you. Make note of any questions you have.
  • If the patient is not able to give consent, make sure that the person who has legal responsibility for making healthcare decisions is present at the visit.
  • Have all medications out for the nurse to review and record. This includes any over-the-counter medications that are being used.
  • Have all insurance, Medicare, and/or Medicaid cards available for review.
  • Have copies of any paperwork for advanced directives available for review, including DPOA papers, POLST, and living wills

During the Admission Visit: A Hospice Nurse will make the Admission Visit to meet with both patient and family and/or caregivers, wherever the patient resides. You can expect that the HospiceAdmission Nurse will:

  • Explain hospice services and answer your questions.
  • Review patient and family rights related to hospice.
  • Present necessary forms for signature, including the provision of privacy notice, consents for service, and election of insurance benefits.
  • Assist in determining goals for the patient/family and provide educational information about the illness and its effects to help prepare for the future.
  • Provide information about Durable Power of Attorney and Living Wills (there is no requirement to have these in place in order to receive hospice care).
  • Complete an initial physical, mental and emotional assessment.
  • Confirm that hospice is the most appropriate service (meets eligibility criteria).
  • Review medications.
  • Order any necessary medical equipment and supplies.
  • Confer with the Attending Physician, Pharmacist, Medical Director or other team members, as needed, to assist in the development of the plan of care.

After the Admission Visit, the Hospice Care Team Nurse will contact you to schedule a regular nurse visit. Your Hospice Care Team consists of a Nurse, Social Worker, Chaplain, Hospice Aid, and others as needed. You have 24/7 access to our services and can call us anytime at 206-320-4000 or 888-782-4445 (toll-free).

No. While choosing hospice may involve acknowledging that most diseases can’t be cured once they’ve progressed to an advanced stage, it definitely does not mean giving up hope. Many people receiving hospice care find great hope in enjoying a higher quality of life through pain and symptom management, in receiving emotional and spiritual support, and in being able to make the most of each day. We work with each patient to find out what hope means to him or her, and then help the patient achieve those goals.

No. Your current doctor will remain with you as your “attending physician.” Our staff will work closely with your doctor on all aspects of your care. In addition, Providence Hospice of Seattle’s medical director will review your hospice plan of care and can consult with your doctor as needed.

No. Hospice can neither speed up nor slow down the dying process. We do provide pain and symptom management to ensure patient comfort; however, death is never artificially hastened and always occurs naturally.

We do not hasten death or prolong life. We provide compassionate care up to the patient’s final day of life. Learn more about our policy on care through the end of life.

This is a common concern for people considering hospice care. At Providence Hospice of Seattle, one of our primary goals is to provide both practical and emotional support to families and caregivers so that they are better able to help manage their loved ones’ care. A hospice nurse is available 24 hours a day to provide phone consultations, and to visit the patient when appropriate. We also offer trained volunteers who can provide respite care, companionship and other types of support to patients and families.

While caring for a loved one at home can certainly be challenging, many families say that they are grateful for the opportunities for closeness that spending this time with their loved one has given them. It can be a deeply rewarding experience for everyone involved.

If you prefer to receive care (such as aggressive or curative treatment) that is outside of your Hospice Plan of Care, you can always stop hospice services by signing a form that states you would like to “revoke” your hospice benefit.

Our People: Our diverse team of health care professionals is passionate about their work in the community and serving the unique needs of each individual.

Our Mission: Providence is a not-for-profit Catholic ministry that is dedicated to serving the community, especially the poor and vulnerable. No one is turned away due to their financial situation or ability to pay.

Our Continuum of Senior and Community Services: Providence Hospice of Seattle is part of Providence Senior and Community Services (PSCS), which is a continuum of care that integrates hospice, home care, skilled nursing care for the elderly, and housing for the poor and vulnerable. Providence Senior and Community Services serves nearly 12,000 people in our communities every day.

Our Programs: Providence is the only hospice in King County that offers comprehensive pediatric palliative care and hospice services along with specialized pediatric grief support. We also offer complementary therapies such as massage and pet therapy. Our unique Transitions program offers free care management and support for people who may not be ready or eligible for hospice but who need help determining what resources are most appropriate for their situation.

Our Philosophy: We provide easy access to specialized pain and comfort treatments called "palliative care." If you have a life-limiting illness, you may be eligible to receive medical treatment needed to relieve suffering and improve your quality of life.

You can make an online donation to the Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation, or download a donation form to mail to us. (If you’d like us to mail you a donation form, please contact us at 206-320-7188 or e-mail You can target your donation to a particular area of service (such as pediatric hospice or the Patient Care Special Needs Fund) if you choose.

Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. Our tax ID number is 91-2077378. All donations are tax-deductible.

Providence Hospice of Seattle offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities for people who are interested in helping hospice patients and their families. To learn more about upcoming volunteer trainings and application procedures, check out our volunteer opportunities or call our 24-hour Volunteer Hotline: 206-320-7169.

Providence Hospice of Seattle is growing, and we have an ongoing need for experienced, compassionate RNs, social workers (MSWs) and CNAs/home health aides, as well as other clinical and office-based staff. To learn more about current employment opportunities, check out our latest Job Postings.

Providence Hospice of Seattle is strongly committed to serving all people coping with illness or loss throughout King County. Many of our services are open to the community; participants do not need to have a loved one who is being served by our hospice.

Services that are open to the community include:

  • Grief support, including counseling, support groups and referrals for adults
  • Grief counseling, school support groups and referrals for children and teens (Safe Crossings program)
  • Annual weekend camp for grieving children and teens (Camp Erin™- King County)
  • Support and resources for people living with a life-limiting illness who are not eligible or ready for hospice (Transitions)
  • Educational workshops and seminars, such as Five Wishes (end-of-life planning) and Caregiving at Life’s End

No, Providence Hospice of Seattle serves all of King County, including Vashon Island and south Snohomish County.

Providence Hospice of Seattle recognizes the need for quality end-of-life health care for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, gender or age. We honor the tremendous diversity in our community and, through our Diversity Outreach initiative, seek to connect with those populations that traditionally have been underserved by hospice programs.

Providence Hospice of Seattle promotes cultural sensitivity among our staff, ensuring that patients and their families are treated with respect regarding their customs, culture, belief systems, language and religious preferences. We work closely with interpreters, local clergy and other community members to minimize any barriers to our ability to serve all who need us. In addition, we actively seek to recruit a diverse workforce, one that mirrors our community as a whole.

While we don’t currently have an in-patient hospice facility, Providence Hospice of Seattle can provide hospice services anywhere patients reside, including skilled nursing facilities, retirement homes, assisted living facilities, adult family homes and private residences.

Providence Hospice of Seattle is committed to providing care for all people in need, regardless of religious affiliation. Our staff reflects a broad range of religious beliefs and faith traditions, and we respect the individual beliefs of each patient and family member.

While caring for a loved one at home can be challenging, Providence Hospice of Seattle offers extensive practical and emotional support to families and caregivers. A hospice nurse is available 24 hours a day to provide phone consultations, and to visit the patient when appropriate. We also offer trained volunteers who can provide respite care and companionship to patients and families.

Despite the challenges of providing care for a loved one who is ill, many families say that they are grateful for the opportunities for closeness that spending this time with their loved one has given them. It can be a deeply rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Providence Hospice of Seattle offers emotional support to caregivers and/or families for at least one year following the death of a loved one. Our Grief Support Services team offers support groups, individual assessments, counseling and special commemorative events. We also offer grief support to children through our Safe Crossings program and annual weekend camp, Camp Erin™- King County.

For more information about Providence Hospice of Seattle’s grief support services, please call 206-749-7702 or 206-320-4000 (for the Safe Crossings Coordinator). You can also check our Calendar for upcoming support group meetings and events. Most grief support services are open to the community.

Providence Hospice of Seattle’s Transitions program is specifically designed to meet the needs of people who have life-limiting illnesses but for whom hospice care may not yet be appropriate. Providence Transitions is a home-based service that provides information, resources and support to adults coping with a life-limiting illness and their families. It is offered free of charge to adults (18+) living in King County. For more information about the Transitions program, please call 206-320-7396.

We know that there are many important reasons why you may be unable to be physically present with your loved one on a daily basis while they are on hospice. This printable guide will answer your questions and give you a better understanding of the care your loved one will receive while on hospice.