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When To Call Hospice

5 Signs It's Time to Arrange Hospice

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A person of any age is eligible for hospice care after being certified by a physician as having a life expectancy that may be six months or less, depending on the course of their disease.

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Hospice care is often seen as a last-resort option—one to use when the patient no longer can benefit from traditional medical care. The fact is that approximately twice as many older Americans end their lives in hospital care now than they did ten years ago—but hospice care is still seen as a last resort. If it was brought in sooner, it could do patients more good.

Hospice care is generally designed to help patients who know they are dying control their pain, stay comfortable, and get their social, emotional, and spiritual needs met in a supportive environment.

However, studies show that more and more, hospice care is being used as the option of last resort for patients who receive very aggressive hospital care during their final days—care that may not be appropriate. For many patients and families, hospice care may be a better option earlier in the care process—skipping the aggressive intensive care that often occurs at the end of life.

Here are five common indicators someone is ready for hospice care:

1. There have been multiple hospitalizations.

Many of our patients express feeling tired of recurrent hospital stays. They never quite return to baseline, leaving them feeling tired and like they’re missing out on things at home. I have heard patients say many times that they are tired of being in and out of the hospital and just want to stay home and enjoy their families. When a crisis occurs for a patient on hospice care, there are nurses available 24/7 to address and help manage the symptoms.

2. The individual has experienced recurring infections.

When a person’s health starts to decline, his or her immune system doesn’t work as well as it normally should, leading to infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections or skin infections. These can be difficult to treat in a person whose health is already fragile, in addition to the often unpleasant side effects that come from antibiotics to treat such illnesses.

3. The person’s level of functioning begins to decline.

Perhaps they need help getting dressed in the morning, where a few months ago they had been able to complete this task independently. Weakness and changes in activities of daily living (ADLs) is often a sign that a patient is declining in health. Hospice staff can help with some of those ADLs, which can help the patient save some energy for other tasks.

4. Increases in distressing symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea or constipation can also be signs that a person’s health is failing.

This is an extremely difficult thing for a patient to endure and can significantly diminish a person’s quality of life. As disease progresses, the symptoms progress, too. Hospice of the Red River Valley’s staff members are experts in treating these symptoms in a way that can help patients regain quality of life.

5. You, as the caregiver, are getting tired.

Caring for a terminally ill loved one is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. It is often around-the-clock care without breaks, because terminal illness does not allow for time off. Hospice of the Red River Valley can help with the caregiving burden. Staff is specifically trained to support you in your caregiving efforts, give you tips on how to best care for your loved one and can also arrange for respite care, if needed.

Choosing hospice is never easy. However, hospice care can make the difference between a stressful, negative end-of-life situation and one that is more comfortable. Consider asking your doctor about hospice care sooner—for yourself or for a loved one—and hopefully, you’ll be able to get the care you need.

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