According to a study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics, patients suffering from a lift limiting disease take too long to get hospice care.

Usually, patients put off hospice care in the hope to have their disease cured. They end up spending the last days of their lives in pain and suffering. Their families have to struggle to take care of them at the same time. The purpose of hospice care is to increase the quality of the patient’s life as it’s reaching towards the end.

Understanding Hospice Care

Hospice care shifts the focus from medical treatment to palliative care. The patient and their family is given support and comfort. A specialized team works at the patient’s home, hospice facility or a nursing home. The physical and emotional symptoms caused by the underlying disease are treated.

FAQ: What Is It Like to Receive Hospice Care at Home?

To receive hospice care, two physicians have to certify that the patient is terminally ill and they have less than 6 months to live. Often, this is difficult to predict because in some cases, patients end up leaving hospice after their condition stabilizes or they want to continue curative treatment again. Depending on the situation, hospice care can be extended beyond 6 months as well. Hospice care is not a one-way street, you can return to the treatment anytime you wish to.

The Right Time to Start Hospice Care

Patients with a terminal condition such as lung disease, cancer dementia etc., should have a discussion with their doctor long before considering hospice care. If the patient is facing more and more difficulty taking care of themselves or with basic tasks like using the toilet, walking, dressing etc., they should start considering hospice care.

Then, there are medical symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, depression and hopelessness that can be treated with hospice care. They can be improved as well as eliminated. Such conversations are generally difficult for patients and their families. This is why patients often put hospice care off until the last moment. It is challenging to have an honest discussion about death and the process of dying. However, leaving such a conversation until the very end makes it even worse.

These signs indicate it’s time to start hospice care:

Susceptible to infections: When the immune system starts becoming weak, the patient starts developing infections. Infections can also be fatal. Therefore, it would be a good idea to start thinking about hospice.

Inability to perform daily tasks: When a patient starts reaching the last stage of their life, they face severe difficulty in performing daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed and going to the bathroom. It could be a sign that their medical treatment is no longer effective.

Declining mental functioning: When they have started to become irritating and there is a decrease in mental functionality, you would want to consider getting them into hospice care. This would help you spend quality moments with your loved ones while their memory lasts.

The patient has less than 6 months left: Last but not least, when the doctor himself says that the patient has less than 6 months left, it is recommended to take them to hospice. As difficult as it is to accept, when the medical team of your loved one recommends to start the process, you must listen.

Just because your loved one is entering hospice care, it does not mean they will die. The palliative care provided might help them recover. Sometimes, the patient needs emotional and spiritual support more than medication to survive. Therefore, your focus should be to provide them with comfort and care during the last few months of their lives.

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Expert’s opinion

Experts say that patients should discuss the option of hospice as early as possible after they are diagnosed with a fatal disease. It is not wise to wait for the doctor to begin this difficult conversation. Even if the patient wants to opt for aggressive treatment, they should have a plan just in case the treatment does not improve their health or condition.

Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and even health insurance. You will get 100 percent coverage. The patient will get extra care and support without incurring an additional cost.

A doctor is not enough

Your doctor or physician who is treating your underlying condition may have suggested a treatment but it’s important to remember not all doctors can handle pain management. The caregivers at the hospice, on the other hand, are trained and experienced in palliative treatments for managing pain.

Patients in such a stage of life need someone who is willing to have a conversation with them. They need counseling and they need to have a conversation about the process of the end of life. They need someone who can provide them with compassion in their final days. They can have the best quality of life even during illness if they receive hospice care. Apart from patients, it’s a difficult time for the family members as well. Hospice services include counseling sessions for family members too.

A personal care plan is created for the patients to make sure they get all the support they need in the last months. Moreover, patients are free to leave hospice care anytime they want and go back to their treatment.