When Is It Time For Hospice?

when is it time for hospice

We can’t tell you how many times our nurses, social workers, or volunteers have heard the words, “We wish we would have called hospice sooner. It has made our lives so much better.” When you’re facing a terminal or end-of-life prognosis, you and your family deserve all the support you can get. The hospice model of care is incomparable when it comes to providing that network.  

Many people mistakenly believe that signing up for hospice means that death is imminent, and they aren’t “willing to give up yet.” In fact, hospice provides comfort and support at every level – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – for patients and their families  Remarkable Fact: Contrary to popular belief, signing up for hospice actually improves life expectancy for many patients. Based on findings from a large cohort of retrospective studies, “Receiving at least one day of hospice care may increase life expectancy by up to three months.”   But, of course, we hope that anyone facing a terminal illness would benefit from far more than a single day of our care. Whether you choose hospice care or palliative care options (more on those below), we sincerely hope you find the care you deserve as you and your family navigate this next powerful chapter in your journey. 

Signs It’s Time For Hospice Care (The Clinical) 

Your hospice team wants to be there for you as early as possible so you can reap the benefits of our services and improve your quality of life for the weeks, months, or – sometimes – years you have left.   In our post, What is Hospice Care, we outline qualifying factors as well as the three foundational tenets of hospice care. Ultimately, there are only two qualifying factors for a patient to be admitted to hospice care. Those are: 
  • Diagnosis of life-limiting condition with a prognosis of six months or less if the disease runs its ordinary course (or an acute medical scenario such as heart attack or stroke that has put death on the immediate horizon) 
  • Failure to improve despite current treatment regime OR the patient wishes to cease curative treatments because they are diminishing their quality of life 
Other signs that it may be time to speak with a hospice agency are when a patient experiences: 
  • More frequent hospital stays or ER/Urgent Care admissions 
  • Continuing weight loss (not including edema weight) 
  • Inability to complete daily tasks independently (bathing, dressing, getting to the bathroom safely, meal preparation, etc.) 
  • An increase in lack of balance, falls, or near misses 
  • Changes in cognitive ability (memory loss) 
  • Breakdowns in skin tissue such as more frequent tears, bedsores, or inexplicable bruising/swelling 
Any of these are well worth a call to your local hospice care agencies to begin discussing your options. Read Tips on Choosing a Hospice Care Provider to learn more about what to ask and look for when contacting prospective hospice providers. 

Signs You Should Call Hospice (The Heart of the Matter) 

While all of those clinical signs listed above are important, we believe that the patient and family’s mental and emotional wellbeing is every bit as important (if not more so) as the physical.   For that reason, we believe patients and families should contact hospice care providers soon after receiving any terminal diagnosis. When it’s time for hospice, calling and speaking with hospice about the services we provide does not mean you have to sign up; it simply means you are becoming informed of your options.   Some of the heart-felt signs you should learn more about hospice include: 
  • You’re faced with a terminal diagnosis and aren’t sure what to do 
  • You are tired of feeling sick and tired from continuous treatment attempts and want to learn more about your options 
  • You are facing a terminal diagnosis and are afraid of death, questioning your faith, worried about your family’s emotional wellbeing, etc. 
  • The physical discomfort associated with your illness/condition/disease is so great it’s diminishing your quality of life 
  • You have a feeling you should call hospice 
  • You prefer to die in a hospice house or at home rather than in a hospital 
Contrary to popular belief, signing up for hospice is not giving up, surrendering yourself to death, or excluding the possibility of miracles. It is simply a way to provide a network of support and comfort as you take time to make important decisions that honor your best intentions and wishes.  

Palliative Care May Be Your Happy Medium 

If you don’t think it’s time for hospice care and are hesitant to sign up, we recommend speaking to a care provider who offers both palliative care and hospice care services.  You can learn more about the differences in our post, Palliative Care and Hospice Care. While both are dedicated to providing physical and emotional comfort to patients and their families, palliative care can be provided as a patient currently participates in curative treatments, while hospice care is offered when a patient decides to no longer pursue curative treatments or life-saving measures.  If you are exhausted by the physical and emotional pain of treatments or frequent hospital admissions but aren’t completely willing to cease treatment, it may be that palliative care is your preferred option. However, unlike hospice, which is entirely free and paid for by Medicare, palliative care options may require out-of-pocket payment depending on the terms of your health insurance policy.   Would you like to learn more about how our network of hospice physicians, nurses, social workers, volunteers, spiritual and emotional counselors can support you and your family? Contact Hospice of the Golden Isles. We are here to serve as compassionate guides for patients and families facing serious advanced illnesses. Your comfort and peace of mind are our highest priority, and our amazing team looks forward to improving your quality of life in any way we can. 
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Hospice of the Golden Isles.
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912.265.4735 | toll-free at 866.275.6801
1692 Glynco Parkway | Brunswick, GA 31525
501(c)(3) non-profit organization | License #GA063007H
Privacy Policy 
Copyright ©2020 Hospice of the Golden Isles.
All rights reserved.

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