Hospice care provides high quality medical care, pain management and counseling at the end of a patient’s life within the comfort of one’s home. The approach to hospice care is team-oriented so that family caregivers are supported by physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers and trained volunteers. In addition to the support of the patient, family members can receive counseling as well.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans diagnosed with a terminal illness do not enroll in hospice or wait so long to enroll that they miss out on many of the benefits. The average hospice patient is only enrolled for about three weeks.
Hospice’s unpopularity is rooted in a misunderstanding of the service. Many believe that choosing to enroll in hospice is “giving up” or even speeding up the dying process. However, this is simply not true. Hospice allows patients to focus on enjoying the remaining days of their lives. Trips to the emergency room become unnecessary and hospice can also eliminate hospital stays. Hospice can even help achieve special end of life wishes such as a last vacation. Many patients are also pleasantly surprised to find out that their own doctor can oftentimes continue to remain in charge of their care. Studies have shown that patients with Stage 4 cancer actually live longer in hospice care. Experts believe this may be due to improved nutrition and mobility.
Longer enrollment in hospice can help ensure that patients can better address the changes that occur during the dying process. Caregivers are experienced in providing the right services and medications needed. With earlier enrollment, the patient, family members, caregivers and volunteers can build a relationship fosters the best possible care. It also helps hospice fulfill its goal of helping patients die with dignity.
If you or a loved one is in a situation where hospice care may become necessary, make sure you take the time to learn more about the service. A better understanding of hospice will prepare you to decide if and when to enroll.