When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, they, their family members, and their caregivers must make many difficult decisions. One of them is likely if and when to start hospice care. With the goal of making a person more comfortable as they face the last months of their lives, hospice care is a valuable tool that can help patients and families alike obtain a higher quality of life. In this article, learn more about hospice care for cancer patients and find out when you should consider enrolling in hospice care.
Hospice Care for Cancer Patients
Hospice care for people with cancer is similar to hospice for other illnesses, but focuses more specifically on relieving the symptoms and other aspects unique to cancer. In addition to providing any medication and equipment needed to help maintain a cancer patient’s quality of life, hospice care for cancer patients also includes a dedicated support team of individuals trained to support those under cancer care.
A hospice nurse will visit your loved one’s home or assisted living facility on a regular basis to help them manage pain and other symptoms of cancer, including fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and constipation. This helps your loved one retain their ability to participate in day to day activities. A certified home health aide will also be on hand to help your loved one with any activities that have become too difficult to do alone, including personal hygiene tasks, meal prep, and light cleaning.
The team will also include non-medical support, as well. Hospice care social workers, for example, will help your family manage its dynamics, finances, emotions, and paperwork, including advance directives, as necessary. They can also connect you to additional resources that can make your experience a little bit easier to manage. Hospice volunteers will also be available to provide your loved one with companionship, while spiritual support counselors can offer prayer and guidance throughout the difficult experience.
When to Consider Hospice Care
Hospice care is typically offered when a person with a life limiting illness like cancer has six months or less to live. For cancer patients, one or more additional criteria must be met. If your loved one has unintentionally lost a significant amount of weight, needs help with the basic tasks of daily living, or has a serious medical condition in addition to cancer that may shorten their survival, they will qualify for hospice care. The stage and severity of the cancer can also be a factor. If it has spread beyond the initial site or enters a more advanced stage despite treatments to cure or slow it, hospice care may be recommended.
In addition to medical reasons for starting hospice care, your loved one’s own wishes to stop curative treatment or remain out of the hospital if the disease gets worse can qualify them for hospice. Speak to your loved one early on to create a plan of action should their condition get worse. From there, the hospice care team will work to quickly expedite the hospice care enrollment process so that your loved one gets the services they need if and when hospice becomes necessary.
Benefits of Hospice Care
Hospice care has been shown to dramatically improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families. Patients typically experience improved mental health and pain and symptom relief, allowing them to enjoy spending time with their families, and even participate in everyday activities. Hospice care can also provide a much needed social outlet, allowing patients to interact with people in therapy groups and other activities for cancer patients and giving them a chance to connect with people outside the home. Through hospice care, cancer patients are able to retain their independence and comfort, helping them feel more like themselves as they transition through this stage of life.
For families, hospice care gives them access to a valuable source of information and specialized knowledge. Your loved one’s care team can answer your questions, introduce you to new care methods, and communicate with doctors on your behalf to achieve the best care possible. The team can also connect you with counselors, support groups, and other resources for family members if necessary. Finally, hospice care serves as a form of respite care for many families. Primary caregivers often have jobs, children, and additional responsibilities that they must balance with their loved one’s care, and allowing a hospice team to take on some of that care can free up time to catch up on many of these tasks.
Securing Hospice Care Services
Speak to Harbor Light Hospice for more information about when to consider hospice care services for your loved one. Harbor Light provides hospice services for cancer patients in the comfort of their own home or assisted living facility and creates customized care plans for each person. Teams of medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and home health aides, work alongside volunteers, counselors, and family members to enact these plans and provide a high level of care for as long as necessary.