Have you or your loved one received a doctor recommended for hospice care? If yes, then your first question would be how long do I have to live in hospice care? Experts say that there is no single answer to this question. It depends on the patient’s condition.
Average Stay at Hospice
Many people think admitting their loved ones into hospice care means they are losing hope and hasting their demise. The purpose of hospice care is to improve the quality of life of patients for whatever time they have left.
Hospice is not reserved for the final days of the life of the patient. Although the eligibility criteria say that the patient must have 6 months or less left but many patients have been able to extend their life successfully. The soon you choose hospice care for your loved ones, the longer they might be able to live.
Generally, it’s recommended to spend the last 6 months at hospice but whenever a patient wants to leave the service, their decision is welcomed. The maximum length of the patient’s eligibility is usually 6 months.
Unfortunately, patients pass away within 3 weeks of admission. This happens because they admitted late. The data collected by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization says that the average length of a patient’s stay at hospice care has decreased to 67.4 days.
Final Days In Hospice Care
During the final weeks of the patient in hospice care, a patient might go through some physical changes. Emotional and spiritual changes, on the other hand, might be obvious. Here are some changes that indicate the patient might be heading towards the end of their life. As painful as it is, the family of the patient needs to be aware of these changes:
- Mental confusion
- Change in breathing
- Excessive sleeping
- Skin might feel cool to touch
Can Patients Be Discharged From Hospice?
You will be surprised to know that many patients are actually discharged from hospice. It’s either because their condition improved or they planned to resume the treatment of their disease.
Usually, patients might be given less than 6 months to live in hospice care. If their life expectancy increases beyond 6 months, they are discharged from the care.
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, here are some reasons to discharge a patient from hospice care:
- The patient’s medical condition is no longer terminal
- The patient decides to leave hospice care
- The patient is transferred to another hospice facility
- The patient is discharged out of the care because of uncooperative or abusive behavior
If you or your loved ones want to get discharged from hospice care, you must plan ahead for any health care services that might be required in the future. Revoking hospice care will also opt you out of Medicare hospice benefit you were receiving such as therapeutic services, medical equipment and other medical supplies.
In case the patient decides to return to hospice care and their 6 months period was not complete, their decision will be supported.
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Waiting Too Long To Get Hospice Care
When you wait too long to get hospice care, you jeopardize the patient’s condition. If a patient is entered to hospice when they have a few weeks like, it is extremely difficult to optimize the benefits of the care. They are unable to receive comfort and quality of life in such a short span of time. The benefits of hospice care include pain management, help with physical activities, and spiritual support. Hospice service also includes bereavement support to families. It is extremely difficult to receive optimal care when very little time is left.
There are some patients who are dying but they don’t fall within the 6-month window. This makes them ineligible for hospice care. Such patients must still remain under the care of regular physicians. Then, there are patients who might have a year or two to life. They certain need high level of care but they cannot receive hospice services.
If better strategies are developed to address the needs of those who deserve hospice care, it might encourage the patients and their families to think about hospice care sooner instead of waiting until the last moment.