Making a decision about end-of-life care or hospice care is a difficult process. This decision not only impacts the terminally ill, but their family and friends as well.
The goal of hospice care is not to stop or avoid the inevitable, but to focus on quality of life and to make the end-of-life process (or transitioning) as comfortable as possible.
We always assume that we have all the time in the world with our parents or grandparents. And even though medicine can somewhat prolong our loved one’s life, it can only provide so much.
Signs when it’s time for hospice care
Sometimes it’s really hard to see when it is the right time for hospice care. You should consider hospice care in the following cases:
If your loved one is frequently hospitalized or often have to the Emergency Room (ER) – You might spend most of your time in hospitals and the burden is bigger than the benefits.
When your loved one has frequent infections – This clearly indicates that your loved one’s immune system isn’t able to fight off diseases. Also, some forms of infections can be life-threatening.
Chronic pain that is difficult to manage – The first step of hospice care is palliative care. It is focused on improving the quality of life for your loved one in case you can no longer manage the pain using normal treatments.
Loss of appetite – Not having a desire to eat could be the body’s way of saying that it’s ready to ‘shut down. So you may want focus on comfort and spend the remaining time with your family.
Breathing difficulties – This can also be a sign that something is wrong. So next time you take your loved ones to a doctor, make sure to discuss palliative and hospice care.
Sleeping for longer and more frequently – If your loved one has started to have frequent and longer sleep patterns, but you remember then to be full of energy, then it might be that a big change is happening to their body.
Not being able to perform daily, routine tasks – Having trouble with daily tasks such as preparing a meal, getting dressed or even going to the bathroom could be a sign that the medical treatment isn’t effecting and that it’s time to look for alternative care.
Decreased mental function – Frequent episodes of confusion or irritability can often be signs of decreased mental functionality.
Less than six months to live – Sometimes an illness is so far-gone then instead of aggressive treatment, the doctor would recommend to focus on improving the quality of life with hospice care.
When to begin:
There is no specific time when you should start with hospice care. It’s always a decision between the ill loved one, the family and medical team that you trust.
Hospice if first and foremost about improving the quality of life. Patients that do go into hospice care, receive pain management, physical therapy and medical equipment.
And keep in mind, not all patients that enter hospice care die. In rare cases, the palliative care which comes before hospice is enough for the patient to recover and feel better.
Hospice and Medicare
It’s useful to know that hospice is a fully covered Medicare benefit. This covers caregivers and nurses, medication and supplies. There are no additional expenses for hospice diagnosis.
How to find the right hospice care?
The first step when discussing hospice with your loved one, is to determine what matters most to them and your family. Once you know what your (your family’s and your loved one’s) need are, you can then share them with hospice care providers and find the best fit for you.