This short article is meant for hospice patients, family members, and friends.

It's common to read various social media posts where a patient, family member, or friend does the right thing by calling their hospice provider to alert them of a change of condition or otherwise significant issue for to come out for an unscheduled visit. Also, common is follow up posts where the writer asked, “it's been ______ (minutes, hours) since the call, I hope they show up.”

I try to stem off these issues for my own patients and families with the education that follows. Unlike fire stations and police stations that cover specific geographic segment of a town, city, county there are no “hospice stations.” Unlike police and fire stations having several employees hanging out waiting for emergencies, the hospice staff are either at the office, at home, or with another patient. If the on-call staff member is with another patient, they must provide care for that patient and family before they have the potential to move forward to provide care for another.

So, when I share with my patients and families what I'm sharing here, the realistic expectation is that on-call may take several hours to get onsite with you and your loved one. Several hours. A good will call the family that called in to give an estimated arrival time as soon as they are able (but even that may be an hour or so if they are with someone also in crisis). Also remember, hospice is not the police, EMS, fire fighters. We have no legal authority to drive fast, no lights or sirens.

For you who may be the future person calling hospice for a crisis or otherwise something urgent, in order to get the best response time, please describe the situation as best you are able including the degree of urgency you feel and ask for a call with an estimate as soon as possible (the latter you should not have to ask for, but to play safe, ask).

Oh hi there 👋 It's nice to meet you.

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