One of the most difficult topics among people of all ages to discuss are anything relating to the end-of-life. Unfortunately, this is a topic many have to discuss with their elderly parents and grandparents in order to ensure their wishes are known and met in case their health should start to decline. As someone’s health declines, the family will often discuss the idea of hospice care, whether hospice care should be in a facility or at home and do you know when it is an appropriate time to consider hospice care. This is often a sensitive topic for many, so here are a few tips to help you be aware of when the time is right to consider hospice care and what to expect from hospice care.
Signs that Indicate Your Loved One is Ready for Hospice Care
It is important to understand that everyone and how their mind and body react to illness is different. However, there are some common signs that you should be aware of that indicate your loved one is ready for hospice care.
- The illness/disease has progressed to the extent that there is no cure and you and your loved one has made the decision to manage the pain and be comfortable, but to no longer treat the disease or illness.
- You and your loved one have chosen to forego any further testing or hospitalizations and instead allow the end-of-life process to happen naturally.
- Body functions/organs may begin to decline or diminish
- You and your loved one are ready to begin the process of letting go
Eligibility for Hospice
Individuals (regardless of age) become hospice care eligible once their physician as deemed a life expectancy of six months (or less), which is often dependent on the typical course of the disease. Patients who elect for hospice care have chosen to stop “curing” treatments, either because the treatments are no longer effective or the person no longer wishes to receive the treatment.
Levels of Hospice Care
Many people assume that hospice care is only provided through a “Hospice” facility. Although this is an option, there are actually several different levels of hospice care, including:
- Routine home care, which is the most common type of hospice service and consists of a trained team of hospice care providers providing services in the home, an assisted living facility or a nursing home.
- Respite care is a hospice service that allows family members to spend time away from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving. This is short term, in-patient care, which is generally limited to five consecutive days.
- General inpatient hospice care provides care in an acute care hospital setting where intensive nursing and other forms of support may not be available in the patient’s home. This is round-the-clock inpatient care.
- Continuous care (home) is meant for patients who qualify for general inpatient hospice care, but they prefer to remain in their own home and require support through brief periods of crisis. The patient may receive services such as home health aide from 8 to 24 hours per day. This is an intense form of support home care because the nurse and/or home aid remain in the patients home to provide support and administer medications until the crisis is controlled.
Hospice care is designed to make the transition from life to end-of-life as easy and comfortable as possible. The patient’s care plan is developed with the goal of easing both the physical and emotional pain as well as meets their spiritual needs if desired. Hospice care also aides in determining the appropriate medications for pain and other symptoms. The hospice care team typically includes a vast array of professionals, including doctors, nurses, nursing aides, clergy and pharmacists. It is important to keep in mind that this type of care allows families to navigate the end-of-life process together and in a setting that is the most comfortable for the patient.