Hospice care provides pain and symptom management for individuals that have been a life expectancy of 6 months or less. The care also provides a team of experts that give patients and their families physical and emotional support. Each patient receives individualized care that focuses on helping not just the patient, but their family too, by coping with the illness in a holistic manner and providing comfort and support during this trying time. With all the wonderful benefits that hospice care can provide, many patients and families have found that once they finally received care, they wish they had entered hospice sooner. We’ll discuss the benefits of getting hospice sooner and why you shouldn’t wait to get the care you deserve.
The earlier a referral to hospice is made, the sooner patients and their families can begin taking advantage of all the wonderful benefits that hospice care provides. Once a doctor has given the patient six months or less to live, the patient is eligible to receive hospice care. However, many times a hospice team isn’t called in until the last few days of life. Our hospice care team does everything to make these last few moments as comfortable as possible, but there is so much more that could be done for both the family and patient if they opted to receive hospice care sooner.
Why Patients Are Not Getting Hospice Sooner
With all the incredible benefits that hospice care can provide for patients and their family, there are still so many people that choose not to receive care until the very end. Receiving hospice care in the last few days of life makes it so that patients and their families cannot benefit from the full positive impact that hospice is known to have on emotional and physical comfort. According to PBS.org, “People often wait too long before seeking hospice care. In the United States, the average length of hospice care is less than 60 days with 30 percent of those who elect hospice care dying in seven days or fewer. It seems that misinformation about the benefit coupled with our general discomfort talking about the end of life prevents Medicare beneficiaries and their family from taking advantage of the valuable benefit.” So why exactly are patients and families getting hospice care too late?
One of the most common reasons for not getting hospice care sooner is because both the family and patient feel as if they have given up. Even doctors may have a hard time accepting there is nothing else they can do for their patient. However, hospice care shouldn’t be the result of giving up on a patient. Instead, it should be looked at as taking a different approach to care. Hospice care acknowledges that aggressive treatments are no longer working and instead work to manage symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.
Another fear is that the patient will no longer be able to see their doctor. While hospice care has a medical director and team of highly experienced nurses, the patient’s regular physician is encouraged to stay involved. Hospice care should be viewed as support and comfort for the patient, with the patient and family still fully in control of their decisions about care and the patient’s life.
Discussing death and making plans is never easy. But hospice care shouldn’t be thought of as the end. Patients can even fully recover and come out of hospice. Hospice care is here to help make patients as comfortable and supported as they can possibly be during this time.
Benefits of Early Hospice Care
With the support of a hospice team, nurses, physicians, and social workers can ease the patient’s burden in many ways. “So many people under-utilize the hospice benefit. We could help improve a great many people’s quality of life much sooner…taking some burden off of their caregivers and improving their symptoms,” explains Hospice of South Louisiana’s Quality Assurance Coordinator, Sandy Griffin. Not only do patients appreciate a higher quality of life when in hospice care, but sometimes they can actually live longer, in comfort, than with the care they were receiving. This means having extra time that can be spent with friends and family. Below are some of the benefits patients and their families can receive when getting hospice sooner:
- More in-depth and tailored personal care can be provided. The longer a hospice team is with a patient, the more they are able to work with and respond to that person’s unique situation and medical needs.
- Pain and illness symptoms are addressed sooner. Our hospice team has been specially trained to handle all levels of pain and ease discomfort. This also includes mental and emotional anguish. When a patient is put into hospice care right away, they can receive a high level of pain management care and emotional support and guidance.
- Social workers and chaplains are connected with patients and families as quickly as possible to give them the maximum benefit on advice in end-of-life conversations. Once these difficult topics are addressed and handled by experts, patients and families are able to move past this and focus on making the most of their remaining time together.
- Stressful hospital visits can be eliminated as patients receive medical care in-home or at a facility without having to attend hospital check-ups. Of course, some appointments with hospital doctors are unavoidable but cutting down on these visits can be good for emotional health.
- The earlier a patient and their family receive hospice care, the earlier they’ll be able to receive advice on handling end-of-life affairs. This can include steps to take involving finances and post-death issues that can be difficult to navigate.
Hospice care should be one of the top care options discussed with physicians, family members, and the patient. Pain management, support, and the ability for a higher quality of life are the best benefits hospice care can provide when received as soon as possible. Never be afraid to face a final verdict given by a physician. Instead, look to how you can make these last remaining moments as comfortable and stress-free as possible. To learn more about hospice and when it’s best to begin receiving care, contact Hospice of South Louisiana today so we can help give your loved one the best in comfort and quality of life.