There is never a wrong time to learn about hospice care. We all have some fear of the unknown, and hospice care can be a very scary term if you’re not familiar with it.
As a general guideline, hospice care can be considered when someone has a life-limiting illness and is reasonably expected to have 6 months or less to live if the illness follows a natural progression.
Hospice care is a type of care that focuses on comfort and quality of life not only for the individual receiving services, but also support for their loved ones and/or caregivers. Hospice care utilizes a holistic approach of nursing, social work, spiritual support, personal care, and even volunteers to provide the support that someone facing a life-limiting illness may require. Hospice care can help obtain resources including medications and equipment that support a person receiving care to remain comfortable in the location of their choice, significantly reducing or eliminating the need to bounce in and out of the hospital.
A person may be ready for hospice when:
- A significant decrease in appetite and loss of weight
- An increase in pain, nausea, breathing changes, or other symptoms
- Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room
- Decrease in function requiring assistance for walking, eating, bathing, dressing, or going to the toilet
- Failure to return to a prior level of well-being after health issues
- Increase in sleeping or decrease in alertness
- Lack of response or unpleasant side effects from a current treatment for a life-limiting illness
- Diagnosis with a life-limiting illness and a desire to stop curative treatment
- Increasing needs for medical and personal support, and fear of burdening loved ones
Your family could benefit from hospice care when:
- Experiencing physical or emotional exhaustion from caring for a loved one
- Need for emotional support to help you cope with changes in your loved one
- Feeling overwhelmed by financial, legal, spiritual, future planning, and other issues that arise from the changes in your loved one
- Fear of making plans due to uncertainty about your loved one’s future
When we see the ones we love every day, sometimes we don’t see the subtle changes of decline. When we’ve been away for a while, those changes are easier to see. This is why the discussion of beginning hospice care may start with a health professional, but it certainly does not have to!
Sometimes healthcare professionals may hesitate to discuss hospice for a number of reasons, which may include a focus on cure, assumption that you may not want to discuss hospice, uncertainty about the outcome of a life-limiting illness, or even a lack of knowledge about the support that hospice care can offer.
Whether you’re considering hospice care for yourself or someone you care about, you can be the first one to start the conversation. You don’t have to wait for a crisis our hospitalization to occur. Hospice can provide the greatest level of support when accessed before crisis occurs.