When to Call Hospice

Some people see calling hospice services as “giving up hope” or something to fear but it shouldn’t be. Hospice is a medical speciality that allows patients and families to focus on quality of life. Hospice focuses on the hope that every day will be the best it can be rather than that the disease will be cured. The goal of hospice is to ease the suffering of chronically and terminally ill people and their families and friends.

In general, hospice care is available when a physician has indicated a patient has a life-limiting illness and has a life-expectancy of 6 months or less. Accepting hospice services means you will not be pursuing curative treatment for your illness, although you can ask about palliative care at any point.

If you or a loved one has a serious or terminal illness and you’ve opted not to seek additional treatment to cure the disease, it’s time to call hospice. If your healthcare provider has indicated that additional treatments would be futile or may have undue side effects, it’s time to call hospice.

Some diseases have a fairly clear progression or indications that the patient has a life-expectancy of 6 months or less. More often the signs and milestones are less clear. Considering these questions may provide some clarity for you or your loved one:

  • Have you been told there are no more viable treatment options for your disease?
  • Have you decided to forego treatment that might cure your disease?
  • Are the potential benefits of treatment no longer worth the side effects you experience?
  • Do you have multiple health conditions to manage and is that management becoming more difficult?
  • Have you been to the emergency room two or more times in the past 3 months?
  • Have you lost weight?
  • Do you experience frequent falls?

If the answers to any of these questions is “yes”, it’s time for a thoughtful discussion about the quality of your life, including how the support of a hospice team of caregivers can help you and your family.

Far too many people wait until they are in the midst of a health care crisis before thinking about what options are available or what care they or their loved ones would have wanted. Often, by waiting too long to learn about possible options, like hospice care, people end up spending difficult days in the hospital or the emergency room and opportunities to be with loved ones at home are lost.

We will do all we can to support you and your family whenever you turn to us for help. Please know that you and your family can receive the greatest benefit of Hospicare services–such as visits by trained volunteers and family support by licensed social workers and chaplains–the longer you spend with us. Sometimes, our patient’s health improves and they “graduate” from hospice. National studies have indicated that patients on hospice may live longer than those with the same diagnosis who are not receiving support and care from hospice professionals.