We are focused on providing patients relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.
Why start hospice sooner:
5 reasons to start hospice sooner than you think
Contrary to myth, hospice care is not just for the final days of life. Although many families don’t call hospice until a loved one’s passing is imminent, many say they wish they’d known about hospice sooner. To qualify for hospice coverage through Medicare, two physicians—your own and a hospice doctor—must certify that life expectancy is likely six months or less if the illness progresses along the usual course. (Every case is different, and people who qualify for hospice can continue to receive services if they live longer than six months.)
The significance of this guidance is that it can be appropriate to ask about hospice at the point when cure or recovery is no longer an option, and not just in the final stage of life.
Here are five reasons to start hospice as soon as you qualify.
Many people hesitate to call hospice because they fear the costs. On the contrary, Medicare (along with Medicaid and most private insurers) cover a wide variety of medical and non-medical hospice patient and family services, including:
- Medical care from hospice doctors and nurses in your home or residential facility
- Visits to your primary care providers and specialists
- Many medications
- Social workers
- Home care aides
- Chaplains and spiritual counselors
- Grief counselors
- Medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds
- Volunteers who provide companionship, transportation to doctor appointments, complementary therapies and services for U.S. veterans
Hospice is designed to reduce suffering and improve quality of life, but it can take time to get symptoms under control. Continuous visits from a hospice nurse over weeks or months can bring comfort and relief.
If chronic pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, insomnia or depression are making it harder to get through the day, hospice can help.
Hospice is designed to reduce suffering and improve quality of life, but it can take time to get symptoms under control. Continuous visits from a hospice nurse over weeks or months can bring comfort and relief. This care can also reduce preventable trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations.
Clinical research even suggests patients may live longer while on hospice.
The goal of hospice is to focus on what the patient wants for their care. It’s not only what can we do for the patient, but what does the patient want?
Early adoption of hospice gives you more time to express your wishes and develop a plan of care tailored to your precise needs.
Every individual’s wishes are different. Some have bucket lists of things they’d like to accomplish, like attend a granddaughter’s wedding and write letters to loved ones. Others want to create advance directives to document their wishes regarding resuscitation or medical interventions.
Hospice clinicians and social workers capture all of these wishes in the care plan.
Hospice providers help you understand your medical care and empower you to ask questions.
Many spouses and adult children rely on hospice to help them navigate the health care system. Hospice providers give families the language and knowledge to assert their needs.
Starting hospice early gives you and your family time to form a relationship with the people caring for you.
Hospice care providers educate families about the best ways to care for a loved one. They also offer emotional support ranging from informal “kitchen table chats” to referrals to personal counseling or support groups.
For caregivers suffering burnout, hospice can arrange for respite care. This care offers a spouse or adult child a break from caregiving duties. The break can range from a few hours to a few days, depending on the situation.
Finally, starting hospice early gives you and your family time to form a relationship with the people caring for you, whether it’s a nurse or volunteer or aide. Seeing familiar faces can be a source of comfort in this difficult time.
What to say or do during difficult times:
People tell us frequently that they want to reach out to friends and loved ones who are coping with a serious illness or grieving a recent death, but they’re unsure of what to do or say. Sometimes they even end up saying nothing at all for fear of saying the wrong thing. Here is our best advice, based on years of experience. When in doubt, though, a loving gesture or word that comes from the heart is always appreciated.
In times of Grief
- Say, “I am so sorry.”
- Give them opportunities to talk about the deceased and their relationship.
- Let them share their memories.
- Use the deceased person’s name.
- Validate that grieving is normal.
- Ask them how you can help.
- Say, “Would you like a hug?”
- Try calling at times when your friend most misses a loved one. (For instance – Bedtime, Sundays, Birthdays, or Anniversaries)
- Offer to wash dishes, do the laundry, help clean the house & run errands.
- Offer to help write thank you notes.
- Be attentive after some time – even months, paying particular attention to special days like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries.
- Console with deeds, not just words.
- “I know just how you feel…” No one can truly know what another feels.
- “Time heals all wounds…” Time alone does not heal the pain.
- “Aren’t you happy he’s in heaven?”They’re in a better place…” This fails to honor the deep suffering of the bereaved. Although they may be comforted by their faith, the pain of missing loved ones is the present reality.
- Do not compare your own loss experiences with theirs… This takes the emphasis off their grief and loss and focuses the attention on you, not them.
In times of Illness
- Allow Sadness. Sometimes having a good cry with a friend is just what the patient needs.
- Share Humor. Even bad jokes are welcome.
- Talk About Life. This can make someone feel more involved in the outside world.
- Tell Her She’s Beautiful. Considering what illness does to a person’s looks, he/she can still want to feel attractive.
- Talk About the Future. Your ability to look ahead to a future that includes your friend or loved one can be very encouraging.
- Cook a Dinner. Offer a choice of two courses and bring the food in disposable or marked containers.
- Bake Homemade Goodies. Bring them frozen and ready to bake to be enjoyed any time.
- Make an Offer Specific. Say when you want to come and offer a choice of what you want to do.
- Help With Holidays. Offer to pick up special gifts, cards, decorations, or wrapping paper.
- Call Ahead. Keep your visits short and frequent when possible.
Offer to Watch TV. This is a great way to spend time together without your friend hosting.
- Visit the Spouse. Caregivers can feel just as isolated as their patients and enjoy having visitors
- Sit below the patient if possible
- Sit quietly by the bedside
- Play their favorite music very softly
- Sing or hum softly
- Read to the person
- Occasional touch: light, gentle touch on forearm or forehead
- Make sure only one bed sheet covers the person; don’t tuck in the sheet around their feet
- Notify the nurse if you have any questions
- Don’t ever do anything that makes the person or yourself uncomfortable
- Be a loving presence – your being may be more important than your doing
Is now the right time for Hospice Care?
Answering the following questions will help you consider if the
time is right to talk to your family and physician about hospice care.