Choosing Hospice: How to Know the Time is Right
A life-limiting illness comes with a lot of difficult decisions to consider. One of those decisions is when it may be time to consider hospice care. This can be an intimidating decision to make, so we are sharing some tips to help you determine when the time is right.
Hospice is an interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life care. When a patient and their family choose hospice, they are choosing to switch the focus from curative treatment to comfort care. This simply means the goal is now to manage the patient’s pain and other symptoms to keep them as comfortable as possible. Symptoms hospice can help treat include pain, shortness of breath, and restlessness.
Many people think hospice is a place. However, this is not true. Hospice care can be provided wherever the patient calls home, including their own home or a nursing facility.
Patients are generally considered to be eligible for hospice when a physician determines they have a life expectancy of six months or less.
Hospice Does Not Mean You’re Giving Up
One misconception is that when you choose hospice, you are giving up. This is not at all the case. Hospice is not just about the dying process, it’s about the end-stage of the life-limiting illness, as well. When you choose hospice for your loved one, you are choosing quality of life for them. No more treatments that make them feel sick in attempt to buy them more time. Just focusing on making sure they are comfortable and at peace for whatever time they have.
How to Know the Time is Right
So how do you know it’s the right time to consider hospice? Below are some of the common indicators:
- Decline in functional status, cognitive status, and/or mobility
- Abnormal weight loss
- Frequent medication changes
- Shortness of breath with minimal exertion or at rest
- Recurrent infection
- Frequent hospitalization or ER visits
- Multiple falls
- Increased assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living)
- Increased weakness
- Diet changes
- Difficulty swallowing
Remember, these indicators are just guidelines and do not replace a physician’s evaluation. If you think it may be time for hospice, talk to your doctor.