Is hospice an ally or a threat?


Lee Webster has co-founded an organization known as the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance and served in leadership positions at the National Home Funeral Alliance and the Green Burial Association.


According to this recent article in Hospice News Webster makes this comment, “I’ve definitely seen a growing trend of natural burials really appealing to a lot of people who are on hospice.  A lot of people on hospice services want to run the whole spectrum of that holistic care and tend to be more open to the idea. They are finding a different way to do the disposition, recognizing that natural burials are less expensive than the traditional funeral burial or cremation services most of the time.”


Webster also makes this comment, “Natural burials are another way for families to take care of the dying in “the least invasive way” possible.  Much like hospice, it’s a continuum of creating a seamless transition to death.


Finally, this comment from the article, while not attributed to Webster, should make all funeral home and cremation owners take notice, “Hospices can assist terminally ill patients and their families who have questions about “green” burial options by connecting them with services like death doulas or by educating staff on those practices.”


I have a unique viewpoint on these comments because for almost 35 years I owned and operated my own funeral home and for about the past dozen years I’ve been a Board Member and Chairperson of a large non-profit senior health and living organization and for the past four years have served as Board Chair of Ethos, a faith-based, non-profit health, home care, and hospice entity.


I find it very interesting as I have an up-front seat in seeing how patients are looking for, as Webster comments on, a seamless transition from health care to hospice to death care.  It’s my opinion that death care companies have to be very careful in their relationships with hospice providers to make sure that they remain on a collaborative basis and not a competitive basis.  In a short period of time, these businesses may be asking themselves if they are allies or competitors.


From my point of view my vision of that reality transition for a patient/client from hospice to death care is intricate and is explained by the thought process of customer acquisition.  It actually begs the question, “Will hospice services get into death care and/or will death care get into hospice services?”


Going back to the time of the creation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 I served on a large Senior Living, mostly nursing home, board of directors.  I eventually chaired that company for three years before I left the board due to term limits.  However, our CEO at the time was very visionary and theorized, that because of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid would be looking to drive health costs down and expensive nursing home care would not be the care of choice.  He felt we should move into the lowest cost of care at the time which is home health care.

The company made a big investment in home health care and the bet was right.  The Afforda

ble Care Act certainly incentivized companies for keeping senior citizens comfortable in their homes at a cost of about $75 for a weekly health visit rather than paying $9000 per month for nursing home care.  To make a long story short, the company also stretched its “Continuum of Care” to include health clubs for the 55 and over set, independent living apartments, memory care units in the same buildings as independent living, assisted living, rehabilitation care in the nursing homes, and at the other end of nursing home care we added hospice care.


The “Continuum of Care” was a big success as once we acquired a customer to our health clubs, or at some other point along the “continuum”  we now know that they could be moved along the “continuum” as their health needs changed.  They were already in our system and our health care practitioners were able to recognize when they needed that “next level” of care.


It’s not hard to envision, as the linked article does about hospice and green burial services, the next continuum being death care services.  Especially when you think of the growing trends of direct cremation with no services and the growth of hospice itself.

In my opinion, hospice patients and their families rely on the advice of hospice personnel at this time.  It’s not so far out of the realm of possibility that they are asking them for death care advice.  If the hospice personnel give this advice, or are partners with a death care company, I can see that company growing because of that affiliation.


It may be natural, or green burials today. . . .but in the future hospice care personnel and affiliations may be a lead customer acquisition mode for funeral home and crematory operators also.


Don’t close your door to the idea and possibilities.


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1 Comment

  1. Chad Wittman on January 13, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    Love the angle here, agreed hospice could be a big lead generator.

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