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When to Choose Hospice

When is the right time to choose hospice?

At the time a medical condition is deemed to be terminal and treatment for cure is no longer of benefit, it is time to select hospice care.  While it is usually the patient’s physician or specialist who makes the recommendation for hospice, it is each person’s right to request an assessment for hospice care.  Hospice is appropriate when the disease, following its natural progression, will limit life to six months or less.

One of the most common misunderstandings about hospice is that services are not needed until just weeks before death is expected.  In fact, there is great benefit receiving hospice care as soon as one is eligible.  For example, with the help of the hospice nurse, pain and uncomfortable symptoms can be managed. The earlier one receives hospice care the greater the opportunity to stabilize a patient’s medical condition and to address other needs, such as spiritual needs.  Receiving hospice care does not mean that death is immediate.  And if the patient’s condition significantly improves, one can go off hospice service and later re-enroll when hospice care is again needed.

How to Know when Hospice Care is Appropriate

Signs that you may be ready for hospice:

  • Diagnosis with a life-limiting illness and a desire to stop curative treatment
  • Increasing needs for medical and personal support
  • Concern of burdening loved ones
  • Repeated hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room
  • A significant decrease in appetite and loss of weight
  • An increase in pain, nausea, breathing changes, or other symptoms
  • Failure to return to a prior level of well-being after health issues
  • Increase in sleeping or decrease in alertness
  • Unpleasant side effects from a current treatment for a life-limiting illness

Signs that your family caregivers could benefit from hospice:

  • Physical and/or emotional exhaustion from caring for a loved one
  • Guilt for being unable to attend to needs of other family members
  • Feeling overwhelmed by financial, legal, spiritual demands and issues
  • Not able to make plans/move ahead due to uncertainty about decline of loved one

The discussion of starting hospice care may start with a health professional, but it doesn’t have to.  Sometimes healthcare professionals hesitate to discuss hospice because the focus of their care is treatment for cure. You, as the patient or the loved one of a patient can start the conversation, and we hope you won’t wait for a crisis to occur.