June, 2017: Knowing When It's Time for Hospice Care
Many people know what hospice care is but they are not sure when the time is right to start hospice for their loved one or themselves. The decision is not always a clear one, especially when patients and family members are caught up in the emotions surrounding end-of-life issues.
In general, people of any age, from infants to the very elderly, are eligible for hospice once a physician certifies that their life expectancy may be six months or less. There are patients who live longer than this anticipated time frame and they may continue to receive the comforting care of hospice as long as a physician documents their eligibility. However, it is not necessarily the physician who refers someone to hospice; family members, friends or clergy may also do so.
Typically, people enter hospice once it is determined that further medical treatment or procedures will not provide a cure and lifesaving measures will not be pursued. When one accepts that recovery is not possible, doors to a new phase of terminal illness open up through hospice care, with its holistic approach to providing quality time for as long as that person has.
It’s time for hospice when the focus is on care, not a cure. Signs of readiness include:
The disease has progressed to the point where no cure is possible, and the patient (and family, in many cases) opts for pain management and comfort over treatment.
Foregoing any further tests or hospitalizations in order to allow the dying process to happen naturally.
Acceptance of one’s condition and a readiness to let go, say goodbye to loved ones and friends, and allow nature to take its course.
Hospice providers (like Center for Hope Hospice) believe that terminally ill patients deserve the comfort and dignity at the end of their lives, as do their loved ones. Hospice serves patients, their families and caregivers at a crucial time of need. Therefore, the answer to “when are we ready for hospice” may be “as early as possible” so that everyone involved can focus on quality of life at the end of life.
Patients who are receiving hospice care are encouraged to partake in activities they’ve enjoyed in the past whenever possible—listening to music, painting a picture, visiting with friends, watching classic movies on TV—even going out if the person is not yet homebound or bedridden. Hospice is all about making the final stage of life as meaningful and comfortable as possible while under professional medical supervision.
At Center for Hope Hospice & Palliative Care, we offer additional support beyond our medical team; these include social workers, bereavement counselors, visiting clergy and volunteers who share their talents with patients and loved ones by offering whatever support is needed. (We even have a special team of canine volunteers who visit our residences and offer lots of unconditional love. You can read all about our furry friends in the latest issue of our newsletter.)
If you are wondering whether it’s time for hospice for your loved one, we’re here to help; please call us at (908) 889-7780 to discuss your needs.
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The Center for Hope Hospice & Palliative Care
Peggy's House & the Center's Administrative Offices: 1900 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
Father Hudson House: 111 DeHart Place, Elizabeth, NJ 07202
The Hope Chest: 26 Prospect Street, Westfield, NJ 07090