Hospice care typically begins when the patient's doctor completes a formal request or referral indicating that hospice care is necessary for the patient, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. A representative of the hospice organization visits with the family and patient within 48 hours of the referral or sooner if the need is immediate. The hospice organization discusses the care needed by the patient and presents options for daily care provided by volunteers, nurses, social workers, chaplains and counselors.
The number of visits provided by a hospice organization is determined by the care plan and, ultimately, the condition of the patient, explains the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Most hospice offices have on-call staff who can respond to emergencies for both physical and spiritual needs. In some cases, hospice volunteers provide round-the-clock care for patients nearing the end of life and the family members who are processing the impending death.