It is a common misconception that hospice care can only begin once a patient is reaching his or her last days, or even hours. However, to be considered appropriate for hospice care, a patient does not need to be imminently dying. In fact, hospice care providers prefer to see patients on hospice services sooner, so that these patients and their loved ones can be more involved in setting their goals of care, and can benefit from the physical, emotional, and spiritual forms of support offered by the hospice team.
To start hospice services, a patient must be referred by a physician who deems the patient hospice appropriate. If you are to a point that you are wondering if someone you know would qualify for hospice services, chances are, you have noticed a significant change/decline in this person, and should talk to their patient’s primary care physician about their appropriateness for hospice care.
Although this may be a difficult conversation to have, it is an important one. The supportive care provided through hospice can give patients enhanced quality of life, and can give loved ones more peace of mind, knowing that they will have extra care and guidance through the difficult process of the patients’ decline and eventual passing.
Even if a patient is not physically appropriate for hospice services, it cannot hurt to have these conversations too early. It is always acceptable to ask physicians for all the options available for care for the patient, and to have a plan in place for their future, if at any point, they require more care.
While every patient is different, there are some common signs/symptoms that may mean a patient is ready for hospice care:
- The patient has been given a prognosis of six months or less to live
- The patient is suffering from multiple comorbidities
- The patient is having increased difficulty completing tasks of daily living, such as bathing, eating, dressing, moving, or toileting
- The patient is becoming more confused or has significant changes in his or her mental state
- The patients has had a significant change in his or her activity level
- The patient has been making frequent trips to the hospital or emergency room
- The patient is falling repeatedly
- The patient is losing weight
- The patient has unmanaged shortness of breath, pain, or other physical symptoms
If you think someone you know would benefit from hospice services, contact their primary physician today, or call a local hospice agency for further information.