What Is Hospice Care?

Learning you or a family member needs hospice care can be scary, but in reality, it may provide a much higher level of compassionate care for those who have advanced life-limiting illnesses. What is hospice care? When is it beneficial?

What Does It Mean When Someone Needs Hospice Care?

Hospice care switches the focus from life-saving measures to moving towards improving the quality of life of a person. The focus is on care, comfort, and improving quality of life. It’s typically meant for those who are in the last phases of an incurable disease.

With hospice care, the type of care provided changes to ensure that a person can live the rest of their life as fully as possible with as much comfort and support as they need. Instead of treating the disease itself, hospice care focuses heavily on treating the symptoms a person has, providing relief that’s often long overdue.

When Is Hospice Care Necessary?

With the help of your doctor, it’s possible to make the decision to move towards hospice care when a person has a serious illness that is no longer responding to treatment or the patient has made the decision to no longer seek out additional treatments. It is never necessary or required for a person to go on hospice, but it is often a beneficial strategy when facing advanced disease without the likelihood of recovery.

You and your doctor may discuss hospice as the next step when your medical condition is no longer responding to cures and treatments but continues to progress. Once a person enters hospice, all procedures and care to cure the disease are stopped, and instead, the focus is on supporting the longest possible life that is of the highest quality possible.

What Are the Benefits of Hospice Care?

Making the decision to choose hospice care allows a person to see a marked change in the type of care they will receive. In many of these situations, there are numerous benefits, including:

  • Availability of a 24-hour on-call nurse: This can often be reassuring to family members.
  • Availability of health care professionals: Access to medical professionals increases.
  • Equipment availability: For those who are on Medicare, there is no added cost for durable medical equipment
  • Medication advanced options: Medication options change to focus on improving comfort
  • Better pain management: It aims to extend the quality of life by better managing symptoms, which may mean less pain and discomfort
  • Better professional support: There may be less grief and emotional distress because there is more time to process the needs of the individual
  • Less hospital care: For many, hospice care means spending less time in the hospital and more time at home. It also means fewer invasive procedures.

For family members, hospice may provide some relief of anxiety as it allows for medical professionals to be available 24 hours a day to help if there is a need. It allows families to face serious illness together with more clarity on realistic expectations.

It’s a common misconception that hospice has to be a person stuck in bed waiting to pass. The reality is that many people in hospice are still able to enjoy various parts of their lives and can engage in a wide range of activities depending on their needs.

Where Can a Person Receive Hospice Care?

One of the best decisions a person can make as they enter hospice care is to determine where they want to receive that support. It’s possible to set up hospice in a medical facility like a hospital or a long-term care center. Other people want to go home and receive care from where they feel most at ease. For others, there are palliative care clinics and assisted living facilities that can accommodate care as well.

Hospice offers a great deal of support, but family and friends often still provide a lot of the hands-on support a person needs at home. However, family members receive the support and guidance they need to do so and may qualify for respite care as well.

How Long Does Hospice Last?

This is often a question asked by those who are unsure of what to expect moving forward. Hospice does not mean a person is going to die immediately. This is always very specific to the situation. It could be days, weeks, months, or longer. Typically, it is care that is designed to support a person in the final stages of their advanced disease, no matter how long that is.

What Are the Drawbacks of Hospice Care?

The obvious disadvantage of hospice care is one that’s likely to change. A person has limited treatment options at this level of advanced disease. They or family members make the decision to move forward with comfort care rather than curative treatments. That decision can be very challenging for individuals to make for obvious reasons.

In some situations, even in hospice care, advanced pain control and symptom management may be challenging. It’s not always possible to simply wipe away all of the pain a person feels, though providing as much comfort as possible is always the goal. Some of the disadvantages of hospice care include:

  • Experimental treatments may no longer be available: For some, this could mean that clinical trials or experimental care with a curative focus are no longer accessible.
  • Hospitalization is discouraged: Often, this means that hospitalization and diagnostic testing are limited because they go against providing a higher level of comfort for the patient.

How to Make the Decision for Your Loved One Or Your Own Needs

What is hospice care to you? What could it mean for your day-to-day life? Before you make the decision to obtain care or not to do so, reach out to a trusted team to discuss what this type of care means in your specific situation.

Contact Doctor’s Choice Home Care & Hospice to have a conversation. Learn more about the services we offer and the support we provide.

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