Coming to terms with the fact that a loved one may need hospice care to manage his or her pain and get additional social and psychological support at the end of his or her life can be difficult. It is important to ask all of the essential questions to determine whether or not a hospice care facility or hospice caretakers are the appropriate fit for the loved one.
In situations where a loved one is no longer able to make his or her own decisions about hospice care, family members may be brought into the fold to learn more about the services provided by hospice care. What follows are the several of the most common questions that patients or their family members ask when considering end of life care.
What Is Hospice?
The thought of dying reasonably scares many individuals. Most people imagine these times as being lonely and extremely painful. However, hospice care gives an important stop-gap solution for feeling of pain and loneliness by allowing an individual to live as comfortably and as fully as possible. Hospice is typically an option for those individuals who are facing a life expectancy of six months or less.
What Is Included in Hospice Care?
Hospice care involves palliative care, such as symptom and pain relief, instead of curative measures. This type of care enables an affected patient to live their last days with dignity, support, grace, and with as much purpose as possible. In the majority of cases, hospice is administered in a patient’s own home, allowing the person to live the remainder of their days in a familiar and supportive environment.
Having a conversation with the hospice care providers at the outset can also clarify the majority of concerns associated with hospice care. This conversation gives family members the opportunity to learn more about what is included and how they can be incorporated into the care plan as well. Having this conversation early can can ease a lot of fears and get everyone on the same page.
How Does Hospice Care Work?
Hospice care helps with all of a patient’s life aspects as well as their wellbeing as it relates to emotional, physical, social, and spiritual efforts. There is no age restriction for a patient who wishes to receive hospice care. Although specific hospice services will depend on the area of the country and the facility itself, the majority of hospice services provide an interdisciplinary team made up of the following individuals.
- Case manager
- The patient’s physician
- Licensed practical nurses
- Registered nurses
- Hospice doctor
- Social workers
Other specifically trained volunteers may be a part of the team as well. In most cases, family members will still play a role in hospice care overall. Family members, however, also know that they can make use of the respite care afforded by hospice so that others who may have more training and knowledge step in during critical times. It can be very hard for family members to manage an ailing loved one’s needs entirely, and hospice is a critical support system for this reason.
What Is a Hospice Care Plan?
The hospice team is responsible for putting together a care plan aligned with each patient’s individual needs for symptom relief and pain management. The plan will address all medical supplies, palliative therapies, drugs, and equipment.
Since hospice care is usually given at home, a loved one may still be involved as the main caregiver, although he or she may be managed by professional medical staff on the hospice care team. In addition, home health aides may also be used to assist with personal care services such as bathing.
In the majority of the situations, hospice staff will be on call seven days a week, 24 hours a day. A hospice interdisciplinary care team also provides spiritual and emotional support in line with the beliefs, needs, and wishes of the patient and the needs of the patient’s loved ones as well.
What Are the Benefits of Hospice Care?
Hospice care providers offer extensive support and knowledge at the end of a patient’s life. This can help minimize anxiety and fear that often plagues terminally ill patients as well as his or her family members. Instead, the care and support that hospice offers allows patients to achieve some level of acceptance and make the most of any remaining time while also being comfortable.
The majority of terminally ill patients who may already be in a weakened mental and physical state make the choice to receive hospice and palliative care rather than continuing treatment for the illness or disease. By making this decision, they avoid the potential risks associated with over treatment.
In-home support from a hospice care team typically means that the patient will have more monitoring than he or she might receive in a hospital. In addition to focusing on the comfort and physical health of a patient, hospice care also considers the spiritual support and the needs of caretakers and family members as well.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Hospice Care?
An individual may be eligible to receive hospice care in any situation where their physician has certified that their prognosis is no longer than six months. This includes patients of any age, regardless of the type of illness.
Some of the most common illnesses that patients in hospice care have been diagnosed with include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Many forms of cancer
Alzheimer’s disease is frequently overlooked for hospice referral as a result of its slow progression, and patients who are suffering from Alzheimer’s may not be referred to hospice until they are in their final stages of the illness. Hospice care can be very beneficial for family members, particularly if the patient is no longer be able to communicate.
An individual may be able to receive hospice care in a nursing home, so long as the nursing home agrees to allow any hospice staff to provide primary care. Hospice pays for all equipment and medications that may be needed in the nursing home.
How to Know When It Is Time for Hospice Care
If a patient is currently benefiting from treatments designed to address their illness, it is not an appropriate time to consider a hospice and palliative care. However, there may come a point when treatment options are no longer working for a patient.
It may be time to consider hospice care when continued attempts to receive treatment may further the person’s life for a few weeks or months, but it will make them too ill to enjoy that time. In other situations, continued attempts for treatment may be ultimately harmful to the patient.
There is no one single point in any illness when an individual should ask about hospice or palliative care. Timing of hospice care very much depends on the individual experiences of the patient. There are some signs, however, that may lead a patient to consider hospice care. These may include the following.
- The individual has decided to stop receiving treatments for the disease
- The individual has been admitted to the hospital multiple times with the same or increasingly worse symptoms
- The patient has made multiple trips to the emergency room and has used this to stabilize their condition, but the illness continues to progress and affects their quality of life significantly
- The individual wishes to remain in their own home rather than being in the hospital
Most people have trouble coming to terms with what hospice means, but it can be helpful to think about what is best for the loved one in that particular situation. He or she may be experiencing negative side effects from other attempted treatments, or they may simply want to be surrounded by their own comforts during this difficult time. These are both common reasons why patients may consider hospice, and they are also good reasons for family members to support the hospice choice, too.
Doing the right research by asking questions and determining what is included in hospice care has a lot of benefits. Hospice care gives peace of mind for family members who are unsure about the future, but it also gives the necessary support to a patient who is struggling with a serious diagnosis.
Not waiting to get help from a hospice care team can add unnecessary stress, so it is worth having a conversation about the benefits of hospice when it comes time for this decision. This very personal decision could help a loved one who needs symptom support at the end of their life. It can also be a meaningful way for loved ones to be included in the process as effectively as possible as well. Be sure to set aside the time to communicate with any hospice care provider being considered in the process as well.