Choosing when to start hospice care can be a major decision for patients facing the end of life. In general, it’s best to begin the discussion about hospice care before the patient actually needs it. Many families opt to bring up hospice with the patient’s physician shortly after a terminal diagnosis in order to start the planning process. The earlier this conversation happens, the better prepared everyone is when that moment arrives — and the better quality of life the patient can enjoy during those final days, weeks or months.

old man needing hospice care

The Primary Goals of Hospice and Palliative Care

The goal of hospice care is to make the end of life as pain-free and comfortable as possible. Hospice is intended for patients with a terminal illness that limits life expectancy and makes it difficult to handle activities of daily living. There’s no specific age limit for hospice, so services aren’t limited to older adults.

Hospice is considered comfort care, which includes aggressive pain & symptom management intended to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Patients who are still receiving treatment for their serious illness may be eligible for palliative care services. Palliative care provides many of the same services as hospice, but it’s intended for individuals who are not yet at the end of life and still want to pursue treatment options for life limiting illnesses.

How Hospice Helps Patients and Family Members

Hospice and palliative care provide welcome relief for family caregivers who may become overwhelmed by a patient’s care needs. Care coordination is provided by the hospice or palliative care team, so family members can concentrate on spending quality time with their loved one during those final months or years of life.

The hospice team includes nurses, doctors, social workers, volunteers, clergy members and physical therapists. Care is tailored specifically to the patient’s health situation and personal needs, so it might include:

  •     Management of pain and other symptoms
  •     Assistance with personal hygiene, eating and personal grooming by hospice aides
  •     Assistance with insurance and funeral paperwork
  •     Counseling and discussions with clergy members to address emotional and spiritual needs
  •     Companionship

In most cases, Three Oaks Hospice can provide care for the patient’s home or wherever they currently live instead of having to transfer to a specialized nursing home or hospital setting.

Who Qualifies for Hospice Care?

Because hospice care is intended for those who are expected to have a limited life span, eligibility requirements include a life expectancy of six months or less and the cessation of curative treatment. The terminal diagnosis may be due to a disease such as cancer, heart disease, advanced dementia or COPD. Someone might also qualify for hospice services after a stroke or if they’ve experienced a general decline in health over time unrelated to a specific disease.

Medical treatments intended to cure the disease but no longer effective must stop before hospice care begins, though symptom relief is still provided while in hospice. For example, health care professionals may prescribe pain medication or medicines designed to combat nausea for patients in hospice.

Making the Choice to Start End-of-Life Care

The choice to begin end-of-life care is made with the input of the patient, family caregivers and the patient’s medical care team. Anyone can start the process, either by getting a hospice referral from the patient’s regular health care providers or by calling the hospice provider directly.

If you’re considering hospice, you likely have a lot of questions about hospice and palliative care. Your family doctor can help you determine the right time to move from curative treatments to hospice care, and the hospice team at Three Oaks Hospice can answer questions about how the process works.

when is hospice recommended

First Steps and Contacting a Hospice or Palliative Care Organization

When you or your loved one is ready to consider hospice services, the first step is to find a local hospice team that provides the services you need. Look at our map to find out if there’s a Three Oaks Hospice location near you. Three Oaks Hospice also offers 24/7 admissions and an admission can be done in under an hour.

After the initial referral, a hospice physician or nurse meets with the patient to determine which services are required and to develop a comprehensive care plan focused on symptom relief and maintaining a high quality of life.

How Long Hospice Care Lasts

Most patients in hospice receive services for six months or less, but this can vary widely depending on the patient’s prognosis and any health changes that occur during the final stages of a serious illness.

Support for Caregivers

Taking care of aging parents or a relative with a life-limiting illness is often a stressful experience. Hospice care services help reduce the burden of care typically carried by friends or family, and the hospice provider works with the family to determine which specific patient needs can be covered by a hospice nurse, hospice volunteers or other members of the Three Oaks hospice team.

Respite care, a temporary full-time care option intended to give family caregivers relief up to 5 days, is also part of hospice care. After the patient passes, bereavement counseling services for surviving family members are available for up to 13 months.

If you or a loved one is ready for hospice care or would like to speak to a hospice care professional, fill out our contact form or email us today at [email protected].