Providing care for an elderly loved one isn’t an easy task, especially when that loved one is nearing the end of their life. Managing all the facets of end-of-life care can be overwhelming, and you may not know what to do and when to do it.
Hospice is one type of care that caregivers often delay talking about and considering due to its palliative treatment purpose. It’s uncomfortable and can feel like a plan to give up. It’s not, though.
It’s a plan to make life as comfortable as possible for both you and your loved one. The earlier hospice is discussed and considered, the more comprehensive your loved one’s care will be.
Hospice providers are specialists in end-of-life care, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until the very end to call your hospice provider. So, when should hospice be called?
Navigating End Of Life Care With Hospice
It’s first important to understand that hospice exists to provide care for qualifying patients who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal or severe illness and who have a projected life expectancy of six months or less. Again, while this timeframe is a qualifying caveat on when to sign up for hospice, it doesn’t mean that you should wait until this happens to consider care.
Hospice, like other end-of-life topics, should be a discussion topic for all caregivers so that when the time of need does arise, your loved one’s wishes have already been clearly laid out and a plan of action is already in motion.
For more on how to have a successful end-of-life discussion, check out these tips from Hospice of South Louisiana.
That being said, there are certain signs that now may be the time to contact a hospice provider to discuss a care plan.
Knowing When To Call: Five Signs You Need Hospice
1. There Won’t Be Curative Care
If your loved one has decided to forgo curative care because it’s against their wishes and/or is deemed no longer effective for their illness, then it’s one of the clearest signs you need hospice.
Hospice is a service that enhances and manages quality of life, including comfort care. It’s designed to attend to your loved one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state of well-being, not as a source of treatment to overcome a disease.
While curative care doesn’t always account for issues such as pain management or how a pain medication secondarily impacts diabetes, hospice care can be instrumental in filling the professional care void.
Services through hospice are provided by a comprehensive, interdisciplinary care team, which includes a physician and pharmacist, nurses, social workers, a bereavement counselor, a chaplain, therapists, and volunteers. Each team member focuses on the person, not the disease.
Services can be provided in an array of settings, including home, hospice home, assisted living, long-term care, and hospitals. Individual care plans are created to help ease the transition from life to death, enabling families to better manage their time, care, and life-order.
2. Is Pain Management A Top Priority?
Terminal illnesses are often associated with increasing levels of pain, anxiety, sadness, and possible depression for the loved one. Hospice seeks to address pain and other comfort-related symptoms in their earliest stages, not wait until management becomes most problematic and difficult.
Contacting hospice as soon as a terminal illness diagnosis has been made and curative treatment has been declined enables the hospice team to manage symptoms as expediently and efficiently as possible to minimize patient discomfort.
The hospice care team can determine the types, administration routes, and the most effective combination of medications and therapies to help your loved one live out their days as peacefully as possible.
3. Is Your Loved One’s Care Lacking The Essentials?
Hospice centers around improving and maximizing your loved one’s quality of life. For some, that may simply involve a volunteer coming to read his/her favorite book. For others, they may lack essential equipment, such as a portable oxygen tank or accessible environment, to ensure they stay as comfortable as possible and their needs are sufficiently met.
Whether it’s getting a good night’s rest with a comfortable bed or staying mobile and independent with adaptive equipment, hospice teams provide the services, medications, and supplies to help patients maintain their comfort and dignity.
The hospice social worker can be instrumental in providing resources for environmental issues.
For example, a patient may not have access to sufficient nutrition or heating/cooling and need resources or applications to help meet those needs.
4. Are You A Caregiver Who Needs Some Care?
Caregiver burnout can strike even the strongest and most devoted people. In fact, those are the ones most likely to burnout.
As this hospice caregiver study shows, the emotional needs of caregivers for dying loved ones are often overlooked and devalued, and support is often lacking.
Hospice isn’t just for your loved one. It’s also for you, the caregiver. Problem-solving therapy is an intervention designed for caregivers of hospice patients to teach them coping skills and how to lower the threshold of caregiver anxiety and stress.
Respite is a critical service that hospice can provide to caregivers. Short-term respite can be temporary care within an approved facility, such as a hospice house or long-term care facility, that usually lasts up to five days.
Volunteers are another option that help caregivers feel secure that their loved ones aren’t alone as they go about errands and the demands their own lives still hold.
Yet another caregiver benefit of hospice is 24/7 on-call staff. These staff members are there should you have a question about treatments and medications or your loved one has a medical crisis.
Nursing staff can provide important care advice and instructions as your loved one becomes less independent. You may wonder how to attend to personal hygiene matters, for example.
5. Is Caregiving Becoming Increasingly Difficult?
Has your loved one lost significant weight despite your best efforts? Are they falling often despite your best efforts? Do they end up in the emergency room frequently? Are frequent doctor trips necessary to manage disease processes and pain? Is your loved one’s immobility affecting their health and your own and making activities of daily living difficult?
If so, a hospice team can be instrumental in finding solutions to caregiver difficulties. By delaying the hospice talk and consideration, caregivers and their loved ones often fill their days with dread and can spend countless hours at doctor office and hospitals instead of enjoying each other’s company.
If you’re wondering about when to call hospice, then some life event has likely triggered the thought. Life events, such as a loved one receiving a terminal diagnosis, are stressful and devastating times.
The signs you need hospice might not jump out at you immediately, or they may be weighing so heavily on you that you aren’t sure where to turn.
Contact Hospice of South Louisiana today if your loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or you’d like to learn more about when to sign up for hospice.
Our team has been providing personalized, resourceful hospice care for over three decades. Entrust us with your enhancing your elderly loved one’s quality of life during this difficult time.