It can be challenging as a family member or a loved-one to deal with the implications of partnering with a hospice care service. Even though family members may recognize that a hospice service is important for allowing a loved-one to be able to have necessary care, the implications of starting a hospice program can feel overwhelming and challenging for family members.
Hospice care, when appropriate, can help fill an important gap in the life of a patient and his or her family. When a patient begins to suffer significant health issues, the only option outside of hospice may be an extended hospital stay. In this unfamiliar environment, it may be hard for loved ones to visit and the patient may struggle to adapt. Many people do not want to spend a lot of time in the hospital and would rather be at home in their own surroundings, allowing for loved ones to be a part of the process and care.
Why Hospice Care Can Be Difficult to Discuss
Death is a taboo and challenging subject for many people, even when it is clear that a life limiting illness is weighing on a loved-one. Family members may come together and discuss the benefits and potential disadvantages of a hospice program, but the truth is that there are many different ways that hospice care can actually improve a patient’s experience. Many families and patients are unfortunately too hesitant to discuss the benefits of hospice.
Although it is certainly preferential for the patient to pass-on peacefully in their own homes, it is still common in the United States for terminally ill patients to pass away in a hospital, receiving treatments that are ineffective, painful, or even unwanted. The loved-ones in this situation may have only limited access to their families, possibly missing out on the critical last moments of a patient’s life. This causes unnecessary stress for the patient as well as his or her family members.
Do Not Wait Too Long to Consider Hospice
One common mistake made in this situation is for family members to select hospice care in the few remaining days of a patient’s life. Deciding this late can mean the patient is left to suffer unnecessarily. Waiting too long can also lead to later regret if family members cannot say goodbye to a loved one in their own way. To ensure that family members understand the wishes of a patient, it is essential for anyone who has been diagnosed with a life limiting illness to learn as much as possible about palliative care and hospice, and to discuss those necessary needs with loved-ones prior to the onset of a medical crisis.
When loved ones are aware well in advance about a family member’s preferences for treatment, it will make it much easier for them to select hospice care when it is time. A patient’s experience can be significantly enhanced by communicating his or her desires to loved ones well in advance. Having the necessary legal documents set up with the help of an attorney can also be beneficial in this situation. Family members may not know or remember the wishes that have been articulated to them in the past by a family member. These legal documents become even more important after a loved one has been diagnosed with a life limiting illness. Knowing that hospice care is in a loved one’s best interest, establishing an articulated plan can provide some comfort during an otherwise challenging time. It can go a long way toward minimizing challenges and giving greater peace of mind for everyone involved.
Knowing How Palliative and Hospice Care Works
Hospice care allows for a full focus on a patient’s wellbeing and life experience. This means that a hospice care team may be involved with the emotional, physical, social and spiritual aspects of helping the patient with a life limiting illness. One of the most important things to know about hospice and palliative care is that there are no age restrictions in place. Anyone who is in the last stages of their life may be eligible to receive hospice services.
Benefits of Hospice Services
Hospice services have major advantages, not just for the patient but for the loved-ones who want what is best for a family member without any additional stress. Hospice care can become a critical support service for taking care of the many different needs of a patient while also giving family members peace of mind knowing that their loved one is cared for. It also provides family members a break from the situation.
Hospice care addresses various aspects of a patient’s experience. This may include numerous hospice services and involves a comprehensive care team including individuals like a case manager, the primary physician for the patient, a hospice doctor, nurses, dieticians, counselors, social workers, or even volunteers.
The hospice team works in collaboration to designate a care plan that is aligned with the patient’s individual needs for symptom relief, as well as pain management. In addition, the hospice care team can be a critical support component as they will provide medical supplies, therapies, drugs, and equipment. In many cases, hospice care can be provided at home, proving additional comfort to a patient who may not want to spend their time in the hospital getting treatments that may be ineffective or unnecessary.
Hospice members will make regular visits with the patient to determine whether additional services and care may be necessary. For example, some supplemental services may include physical therapy, speech therapy, dietary assistance, or even a therapeutic massage. The hospice care team may also work in conjunction with a certified home health aide who will assist with personal care services, such as bathing. Furthermore, hospice care is important not just for the patient, but for the family, as caregivers frequently remain on call throughout the day in case of an emergency situation.
The Advantages of Palliative and Hospice Care
Hospice care providers are vital for providing support, practical knowledge, and experience at the end of a patient’s life. Hospice can minimize anxiety for family members, as well as the patient with a life limiting illness. This allows family members to have more opportunities to interact with their loved one and to maintain some level of acceptance.
Patients with a life limiting illness may already be in a weakened mental or physical state. They may opt on their own for hospice care treatment to avoid the dangers of being overtreated by a hospital or other medical provider. Hospice programs often provide training and support for family caregivers, which can make things easier for the patient with a life limiting illness. Many patients who have been diagnosed with a life limiting illness may feel as though they are already a burden to their loved ones, and the additional support provided by hospice can help to minimize these feelings.
There are many misconceptions about palliative care and hospice, and these misconceptions are unfortunately common. Some people, for example, may be under the impression that hospice care is limited to only several months, while some insurance companies may require that a patient has received a prognosis of a life limiting illness. Any patient with a life limiting illness can continue to receive hospice care as long as necessary. Even if the patient surpasses the six-month period, as long as the prognosis states six months or less they are still eligible to receive hospice care.
When to Consider Palliative and Hospice Care
If a patient is currently benefiting from treatments that are intended to cure the illness entirely, it is not the appropriate time to consider hospice. However, there is no single point in a patient’s illness when they should begin to ask about palliative and hospice care. It will depend a great deal on the patient’s individual needs. The following signs and symptoms could indicate that it is time to discuss hospice care:
- The patient has decided to stop receiving treatments for the disease as treatments are uncomfortable or unwanted.
- The patient wants to be in his or her own home rather than relocating to a hospital or medical facility.
- The patient has already been admitted to the hospital frequently in the last year with similar symptoms or symptoms that are getting worse.
- The patient has made numerous trips to the emergency room but the illness continues to impact the patient’s quality of life.
Finding the right hospice care provider can go a long way toward making a patient’s experience better, as well as making the entire situation easier for affected family members. Hospice care can make the experience easier for everyone when it is utilized at the right time. Contact Harbor Light Hospice for more information.