When is Hospice Ideal to Put in Place?
January 26 2021
A Guide to Discussing and Beginning Hospice Care
Deciding on when to start end of life care is always a difficult decision. It is a very emotional time for the patient and their family and friends, making the decision to begin hospice all the more difficult. To make any decision about hospice care, it is important to have all the facts and information. In this article, we will go over what hospice care is plus the signs to watch for to know when it is the ideal time to start hospice care.
What is Hospice?
Hospice, also referred to as end of life care, is very different from health care. Rather than administering life-saving treatments, hospice focuses on comfort care in lieu of treatment for conditions and illnesses. It helps those with a terminal illness live out their days comfortably and with dignity. An entire team of interdisciplinary professionals are there to help address all the needs of the hospice patient including medical professionals who help to ease pain and discomfort with medications or therapy, social workers who ensure the needs of the patient and family caregivers are being met, as well as spiritual advisors who help to provide the final link, if needed, in a patient-centered holistic care program.
How Do You Begin the Process of Starting Hospice?
Hospice care requires the referral of the patient’s doctor to hospice. When the patient is ready and the doctor believes the patient is reaching the end of their life, they will contact the hospice care of the patient’s choice to recommend them for hospice. The hospice facility will then evaluate the patient and if they deem the patient ready for hospice, will immediately admit them and begin comfort care.
If a patient lives longer than 6 months, a doctor just needs to recertify that the patient is still nearing the end of their life and hospice care will continue. Also, know that deciding to start hospice care is not final. You always have the option to end hospice and restart curative treatment at any time.
When is the Ideal Time to Start Hospice Care?
First, it is always important to discuss the question of hospice care with your loved ones and a physician. It is important to know what you, as a patient, want to happen in order to trigger the start of seeking hospice care and your wishes should be made known to your loved ones to ensure the process goes more smoothly. Remember, it is important to discuss this early on and not wait until hospice care is already needed. Sometimes, hospice patients are admitted into hospice care a bit late, causing unnecessary pain and suffering.
Ideally hospice should begin when:
- The patient has 6 months or less to live, according to their doctor
- The patient is rapidly declining despite medical treatment
- The patient is ready to forego medical treatment aimed at prolonging life and instead live out their final days more comfortably
Signs to Watch For To Know When it is Time for Hospice
Sometimes, it is easy to know when it may be time to start hospice care. For example, a patient may no longer be responding to cancer treatments or the cancer has spread rapidly throughout the body. Other times, a hospice patient may be an elderly person who is just reaching the end of their natural life and their organs are beginning to slow or shut down. Because a doctor isn’t always around, it is important for both the patient and their loved ones to watch for signs to know when it might be time to begin end of life care. Some of these signs include:
- Not responding to life-saving treatments
- General rapid decline of health even with medical treatment
- Frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER
- Frequent or recurring infections
- Inability to perform daily living activities
- Mental status decline
- Weight loss, reduced desire to eat
- Uncontrolled pain, shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- The decision to focus on quality of life, rather than aggressive life-prolonging treatments
While it may seem like hospice care is about dying, it is actually about deciding how to live life with the time you have left. It is about celebrating life, saying your goodbyes and living out your final days with dignity.
If you believe that a loved one or yourself is ready to begin hospice care, consider My All American Care for your end of life treatment. Our caring professionals provide hospice care to patients in the comfort of their own home. This allows hospice patients the time and space they need to live out their days in peace and with family and friends.