Everyone wants to think that they'll have a little more time with their aging family members. It's hard to think about losing someone you love, so a lot of families tend to put off talking about end-of-life care. Having an open and honest conversation with your loved one about their wishes for care is important, and having that conversation early is imperative to providing them with the best quality of life.
Many families call hospice too late, when their loved one is in their final days or weeks, not realizing they could have started receiving specialized care and medications, equipment and supplies to help their loved one much earlier.
If you are asking yourself when to start hospice care, there's a good chance that now is the right time. Even if your loved one isn't eligible for hospice right now, gathering information to educate yourself on when to start hospice care will help you be prepared in the future.
What is Hospice Care?
To know when to start care, it's important to understand what hospice is and what it does for patients.
Hospice professionals provide specialized care that focuses on improving the quality of life for patients who are experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness and their caregivers.
When a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can be hard to know where to begin. Knowing the early signs of when to start hospice will help you ensure that your loved one can live as fully and comfortably as possible.
Knowing When to Start Hospice Care
It's confusing to know if hospice is right for your loved one when they're diagnosed with an incurable illness. To help determine if it's time to call hospice, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER
- Reduced desire to eat, leading to significant weight loss and changes in body composition
- An increase in falls
- Changes to their mental abilities
- Skin tears, infections and other signs of deteriorating health
- Uncontrolled pain, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting
- Decreasing alertness, withdrawal and increased sleeping or mental confusion
- Decline in their ability to perform daily tasks including eating, getting dressed, walking or using the bathroom
Many people think that they have to wait for a doctor referral for hospice, but any individual can reach out to a hospice provider. If you are seeing these signs, it's time to call hospice to determine if your loved one is eligible for care.
Who is Eligible for Hospice Care?
Patients are eligible for hospice care when they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less.
Generally, a person is able to receive hospice care if they meet the following criteria:
- They are diagnosed with a terminal illness
- They are certified by a doctor that life expectancy is six months or less
- They consent to receiving comfort care instead of curative care
Only your hospice doctor and your regular doctor or nurse practitioner (if you have one) can certify that you’re terminally ill and have six months or less to live. Some patients in hospice do live longer than six months, but if their doctor certifies they still have a terminal illness, they can continue receiving hospice care.
Have more questions about hospice? Find answers to our frequently asked questions.
Give Life Back to Your Days
Hospice should not be thought of as a death sentence. Hospice focuses on helping patients live their remaining days peacefully and comfortably, giving life back to their days.
If your loved one is facing a difficult illness, there is no better time than now to educate yourself on how hospice works and find a provider.
Find Out More About Hospice of Southwest Ohio
Hospice of Southwest Ohio is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life during a patient's final months and days. Rather than viewing hospice as scary or troubling, it can be viewed as a natural way for patients to pass away with dignity and the loving support of family, friends and an interdisciplinary care team that helps them experience a more peaceful and comfortable death.
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about end-of-life care. Hospice of Southwest Ohio offers hospice, palliative and in-home primary care in and around the greater Cincinnati area in Clermont County, Butler County, Warren County and Hamilton County. Call today at (513) 770-0820.