What to Know When Considering Hospice
For many individuals and their loved ones, hearing the word “hospice” can be a scary thing, mostly because there are many misconceptions surrounding hospice and what it entails.
While end of life situations are often associated with uncertainty or fear, hospice helps to bring comfort, support, and yes, even joy to individuals and their loved ones. For individuals considering or entering hospice, here is what you can expect:
- You always have a choice
Choosing to receive hospice care is not "giving up". It's a choice to be made by the individual if they are able to make it, or for a healthcare proxy if they are not.
Discuss options frankly with your doctor early in treatment about how you might want to handle an end of life situation. Hospice is a philosophy of care designed to bring comfort and support when curative treatment is no longer appropriate.
The goal of hospice is to allow the individual to live life to the fullest while managing symptoms to alleviate or prevent suffering. No one is required to enter hospice care, but many individuals and their loved ones choose to do so when they better understand the hospice philosophy.
- You or your loved one may not be in their "final moments"
Another misconception about hospice is that it is only brought in when an individual has just days or hours to live. Hospice can be utilized any time if an individual has a life expectancy of up to six months.
Choosing to use hospice as soon as it is determined that a cure isn't possible can lift a big burden of worry.
When the focus is shifted from prolonging life to simply enjoying life, an individual and their loved ones have the opportunity to celebrate life to its fullest while receiving comfort and a hand to hold in an uncertain time.
- You will gain a hospice team
You will not have to change physicians when you choose hospice. Instead, your hospice team—which will likely consist of, at minimum, a hospice nurse, a social worker, and a spiritual advisor—will work closely with you, your doctor and healthcare team to determine a plan of care.
Each plan of care is as unique as the individual for whom it is designed. Some patients may need more pain management support, while some are relatively pain free and would like more spiritual guidance.
No matter how your hospice team works, they will have your utmost comfort and dignity in mind while partnering with you.
- You may not have to move or re-locate your loved one
Many believe that hospice is only a place, and hesitate to consider it because they don’t want to move an individual out of their home or other location.
Since hospice is a service, it can be administered anywhere. Many individuals are able to receive hospice care in their own homes or retirement communities.
Occasionally, your hospice team may suggest moving locations if it will help to make the individual more comfortable, but any moves would be discussed with all concerned before they happen.
- Your loved ones and caregivers will also receive attention and support
Hospice is a holistic form of care and will likely provide support to the individual and their loved ones. Hospice services can include individual counseling, support groups and bereavement services.
Your hospice team will work with all involved to determine what makes the most sense for everyone. If your family is very religious, services may include in-depth spiritual support. Or maybe your hospice team will work with your loved ones to create beautiful, memorable experiences and moments together.
No matter your specific situation, ask lots of questions when considering hospice care. Both your physician and any potential hospice providers should be able to answer and address any concerns you may have about care, pain management, financial coverage or arrangements, and depth of care.