Hospice can invoke a lot of anxiety and fear, however, better understanding the implications and processes within hospice can make the concept much more approachable with family and friends.
Hospice refers to the special care patients receive when their illness is not foreseen to improve, normally encompassing the last 6 months before death. Hospice can be likened to palliative care, where the goal of care is to make the patient comfortable to be able to achieve the highest standard of living possible. Hospice is also dissimilar to palliative care, as palliative care can occur at any time in the care process, but hospice is only intended to occur at the end of life.
In order to be put into hospice care, 2 physicians must certify that the patient has less than 6 months to live if the illness follows the projected course. Usually, at this time, the patient is taken off any strenuous medication. For example, a terminal cancer patient would not normally continue chemotherapy. However, it is important to note that depending on the circumstances, a patient can leave hospice care if their illness improves.
Hospice can occur in different settings depending on the needs of the patient, but most often will be in:
- Nursing home
- Assisted living facility
- Veteran’s facilities
- Any other home-like environment with medical support available
When in hospice care, a hospice care team is assigned to a family that will organize care plans and coordinate all information between the family and the medical team.
Hospice care can also include a number of therapy options depending on the needs and wants of the patient. Many of the hospice services are free and provided by Medicare. From massage therapy to pet and aromatherapy, hospice is all about finding a care plan that works for you and your loved one’s needs.
When facing end of life choices and deciding on hospice consider:
- Issues surrounding hydration and food
- Issues around “cure vs comfort” for the patient
- CPR or intubation if the patient is in distress
A hospice professional will be able to help you navigate some of these challenging issues.